Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

TOP STORY >> Residents dispute new development

Leader staff writer

Residents of Sun Terrace, across the street from Wal-Mart Supercenter in Cabot, who several years ago successfully fought rezoning on the corner of Rockwood and Hwy. 89 at the entrance to their subdivision, are doing battle with the council again to stop a commercial development just one house down from that corner.

The residents filled every available seat and lined the walls in the council chambers Monday night. They had missed the planning commission meeting earlier this month when the commission approved about 11 acres for rezoning from residential to commercial and they were determined that the council, which has the final say, would know how they feel before it was too late.

For half of the two-hour council meeting, they took the podium one by one to express their objections to the council rezoning the property, but their reasons for objecting were not diverse.

The developer wanted to put an entrance into the subdivision on Rockwood. They don’t want that because they say that traffic from Wal-Mart and other businesses in that commercial development already is so bad that they have difficulty getting on and off Rockwood. And for that matter, they don’t want access to a commercial development off Hwy. 89 either. They don’t want a commercial development on their side of the highway at all.

They said they feared that a commercial development would devalue their property, bring more traffic inside their neighborhood and endanger both their children and their peace.

“I don’t understand why we have to keep complaining about making this commercial,” Virgil Teague told the council.
The city is getting the cart before the horse by allowing commercial development in an area that is already frequently in gridlock.
“If you want commercial development, you should build a highway first,” Teague said.

Jack Sinky, who lives in the first house off Rockwood, reminded the council that the residents of Sun Terrace are voters who helped put them in office.

“Leave residential alone. Don’t chip away at it from the corners,” he said. “Do the right thing.”
Patty Brown, who lives at 19 Sun Valley Road, implored the council, “Please do not do this to us.”
Susan Price, who lives at the end of Rockwood, said, “Leave it residential. That’s why we all bought here. Develop somewhere else.”
Alderman Odis Waymack drew jeers from the crowd when he said there is really no way to stop commercial development along Hwy. 89. He said later that the council opened the door to commercial development when it rezoned a daycare next to the property to allow Steve Blackwood to move his real estate business there. The daycare had been required to keep a residential zoning with a special-use permit that could not be transferred to the new owner.

The residents who attended the meeting also feared that if the 11-plus acres are rezoned to commercial, the house on the corner of Rockwood and Hwy. 89 that they had fought to keep residential would be the next to go commercial.

Ron Craig, planning commission chairman, said after the meeting that the master zoning plan shows Hwy. 89 as commercial on both sides.
Waymack said that since the council has rezoned the Blackwood property commercial, it has little choice except to rezone for the proposed commercial development.

Alderman David Polantz disagrees. He told the council that housing, not commercial development, has to remain the focus in Cabot.
At Waymack’s suggestion, the rezoning was sent back to the planning commission for the developer and the commission to discuss a planned-unit development or PUD which would require the developer to submit complete plans for what he intends to build.

But Waymack said later that he doesn’t think the city can compel the developer to present anything other than what has already been required – a rezoning request.

Adding to the quagmire, City Attorney Clint McGue told the council that in his opinion the council can’t even tell the developer that he can’t build access into the property off Rockwood. To do that would be to invite a lawsuit, he said.

By sending the matter back to the planning commission, the council has postponed making a decision until mid February.
“The deadline for getting on the January commission agenda has passed,” Craig said.
Residents said they have no intention of giving up.

Carl Schmidt, a longtime resident, told the council that a bus stop is now at the location where the developer proposes to make an entrance off Rockwood. A blind spot on the street is dangerous already without adding heavy construction vehicles to the mix, he said.

So when asked if he would attend the planning commission meeting to continue his fight he answered, “You can bet your sweet bippy we’ll be back.”