Council accepts appeal of rezone

A rezone request tabled at the April Planning Commission meeting and denied at the May Planning Commission, was appealed to the City Council which, after two different motions, approved the appeal.

Realtor Mitzi Taylor appeared before the council on behalf of property owner Kaitlyn Keller who requested the land at 290 Hallack Lane be rezoned from residential to C1, commercial. Keller lives out of state. There is a residence on the property which is currently being rented.

Taylor told council members that Keller "felt like maybe they (commissioners) didn't see what she wanted." She said the property is adjacent to four acres owned by Brently Bone that is commercial and is also across the street from commercial property (a gym and a laundry).

"She felt like if it were rezoned commercial, she would have more opportunities," Taylor said.

City planning director Jessica Grady explained the issue and the Planning Commission discussion to the Council. She said there was a property owner who spoke against the rezone request at the April meeting and that at the May meeting, it was mentioned that approving the rezone may result in a domino effect and allow commercial zones away from the highway frontage down the residential street. She said that the lot is not in the city's comprehensive plan as commercial.

"Comprehensive plans, we use them as guidelines," Grady said. "They should reflect what the city would like to see, not necessarily what we actually have. Keeping growth in mind, I think that's one of the reasons the commissioners decided the way they did -- because Hallack does already have so much that it supports and the concern about how that could be developed in the future."

At the request of the mayor, city attorney Shane Perry spoke. He said: "Zoning is a legislative decision.

"Reasonable minds can differ, I think that's what we have here ... I heard a commissioner say 'not right now,'" Perry said, adding that the land between the four-way stop of Curtis Avenue and Slack Street and It'll Do Road is "probably our best commercial corridor ... municipal finance lives and dies on sales tax and sales tax comes from prime real estate.

"That is our prime corridor," Perry said. "I think they're decision was very reasonable ... it would also be reasonable if council over rules that because it's the prime commercial corridor, make it deeper where there's less residential density."

Keene said the city had lost some possibility of commercial development with residential subdivisions along that corridor.

"I'm comfortable with re-examining that," Ginger Larsen, council member, said. "I just think that's something the Planning Commission does first before we override something they already have in place."

"I think we have to consider what the Planning Commission discussed and decided. That's literally what they're there for," Larsen said. "I sat in that meeting. It was a unanimous decision to deny that because it's not the time yet."

"My personal decision is commercial is going to bring in more tax dollars," council Steve Guthrie said, adding that Keller should come back at a later date.

Council member Jeff Neil said it sounded as though the planners were saying this wasn't the right time.

Perry said if the request is denied, it can not be brought back to the city within six months.

After extensive discussion, Guthrie suggested a motion to table the request or send it back to the Planning Commission.

Perry said the council needed to either approve or deny the appeal.

Guthrie made a motion to deny the appeal based on the Planning Commission's recommendation. It was seconded by Larsen. Council members Larsen, Guthrie and Neil voted to deny the appeal with Nadine Telgemeier, Matt Blood and Cody Keene voting against denial, resulting in a tied vote.

Mayor Nathan See said legally he can not break a tie on an appeal. Perry said the vote to deny the appeal failed.

Neil said he voted to deny the appeal because "the Planning Commission we put in place ... unanimously felt this was not a good idea."

Dr. Karen Sherman, a Planning Commission member, spoke from the audience about the issue and the need for a buffer of less dense zoning between commercial and residential.

Council members discussed sending the issue back to the Planning Commission. City Clerk Sandy Button said she believes the city has in the past sent issues back to the Planning Commission asking them to reconsider.

"I think they're entitled to a decision on their appeal so they can seek judicial action, if they chose to," Perry said. "We have an issue on the table we need to deal with."

Council member Cody Keene made a motion to approve the appeal. Telgemeier seconded the motion "as a steward and needing tax revenue from that commercial."

"Sitting at this bench, we have to listen to everybody," Keene said. "But we can't just take the 1% and not think about the 99% and what it's going to do for the city in that capacity."

Larsen and Neil voted against the motion which passed with Telgemeier, Blood, Guthrie and Keene approving the appeal.