By Jeff Neagle
The issue of re-zoning the property at 511 Burkesville Street has been an issue the city council has seen on the docket several times. On Monday, the council held a vote that decided the issue. Council member Craig Dean chaired the meeting in Mayor Pam Hoots’ absence due to her mother’s health. Linda Waggener was out due to illness.
The night began with a citizen comment from Mary Anne Loy who spoke about several aspects of the issue. “Since planning and zoning was enacted, no residential property between the Public Square and Tutt Street has been changed from residential to commercial,” Loy stated. “All commercial property in existence now was grandfathered in because they were commercial before zoning was enacted.”
She also stated that Dollhouse Daycare, which is also on Burkesville Street, is not zoned commercial; it has a conditional use permit.
“I’ve talked to a lot of the neighbors,” said Loy, “and I think their biggest concern is to avoid the property becoming poor housing because they have a trailer park behind them that is not well maintained at all and would not be code now, I’m sure. Even though an R2 zone doesn’t allow trailers, they have some in their backyard, so they feel like zoning doesn’t really work the way it’s written down.”
Loy conceded that both neighbors said they were okay with the car lot going in. But she pointed out that the council is not zoning the property for a car lot.
“If you vote to change this zone, you are saying a whole list of things can be there – a fast food restaurant, a dog kennel, or an office building. There are a whole lot of things you are saying ‘This is ok’ and it’s in a residential zone.”
After Loy’s comments, the council took a roll call vote. City Attorney Derrick Helm clarified that it would take four votes to deny the Planning and Zoning Board’s recommendation because it requires a majority of the entire legislative body, even if one member is absent. He also clarified once again that a ‘no’ vote was a vote against the planning and zoning recommendation and would be for changing the zone to commercial.
Voting first, Craig Dean stated, “Mary Anne, I appreciate your research. A lot of that stuff was my original concern to start with. My biggest thing was, I don’t like a residential person’s rights getting overlooked because a commercial building wants to go in. If the property owners on each side are ok with it, I could be for it. That is why tonight, I’ve changed my vote and I will be voting against the zoning board.”
“That is not a slight against the zoning board. They were 100 percent correct in their decision, by the letter of the law. But we as a council are in a position that we can make two entities correct. Somebody doesn’t have to be wrong for somebody else to be right. We had one property owner against it at the beginning, but he has since come around and assured me that he is ok with it. With that being said, I vote no against the planning and zoning recommendation.”
Dr. Ronald Rogers explained his vote as well. “The zoning commission was 100 percent correct in their decision. They have a book published in March 2007 and they don’t have a lot of lateral movement. It is very seldom that we change what they recommend. I’ve never been on a council that did.”
Rogers said he had spoken with neighboring property owners and explained that the change would mean the lot would be commercial and not just zoned for a car lot.
“I’ve talked to the neighboring property owners and there is no objection between those two for the property to be changed to commercial. At this time, I vote no also.”
June Parson stated, “I don’t take a voting change lightly. The only thing that has changed is the city has purchased 18 acres in that area to make a park. After researching the law, the question is are the proposed changes that the city is going to make enough to justify going against the planning and zoning recommendation not to do this. After looking at all the evidence that we’ve all gone through and the unanticipated purchase of the land by the city in that area, I vote no.”
Mark Harris and Sharon Payne, who both previously voted no, repeated their prior votes for a 5-0 decision.
After the vote, Dustin Brockman, owner of the property in question, was relieved to have the ordeal behind him.
“There have been so many people in the community who jumped in to support me,” said Brockman. “There were a lot of people I didn’t even know that stopped by the shop, called the mayor’s office, or just sent word to me that they were behind me. There is no way I can ever thank everyone enough for the support.”
“I especially want to thank the neighbors and people in the area of the property on Burkesville Street. They kept an open mind and listened to what I had to say when we spoke. They have been really great to work with and I look forward to being their neighbor.”
Brockman said he plans to take his time, make sure he makes good decisions on what happens next. “I am not going to rush it. We want to do what is right for the neighborhood.”