Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

TOP STORY >>Townhouse issue goes to council

Leader staff writer

Even though the Jacksonville Planning Commission soundly turned down a rezoning request for a section of land near West Main and Emma that would have allowed townhouses, the developer is appealing to the city council. Neighbors are passing out fliers against the rezoning.

With the support of Alderman Bob Stroud, developer Tim McClurg will ask aldermen at Thursday night’s council meeting to approve the rezone of about three acres out of the 26 acres he plans to develop on the south side of West Main Street, west of Emma Street.

McClurg wants the land rezoned from R-0 (single family homes) to R-4 (multi-family homes). His latest plan called for 34 townhouses to be built on the western edge of his property and 25 single-family homes built between the townhouses and Western Hills Subdivision.

The townhouses would have a minimum square footage of 1,200 feet. A fully packed chamber of residents, business owners and city officials heard the issue debated at the Sept. 11 planning commission meeting. It was the third time in less than a year that McClurg tried to get the land rezoned for multi-unit housing. Stroud was among a small number of people who spoke at the planning commission in favor of the townhouses.

“No one has fought against apartments more than me. But people want and need townhouses. This plan is a good thing. It’s good for the city,” he said. Stroud added that the townhouses would help satisfy the city’s need for more upscale housing.
Currently, there are no townhouses in Jacksonville, but there are 27 apartment complexes with a total of more than 1,700 units. Apartments rents range from a low of $295 a month to $650 a month.

Bonita Rownd, the chamber of commerce’s executive director, told the commission, “At a time in our city’s history where we are experiencing growth, I don’t want to hinder that growth. There is a need for this kind of upscale housing to bring in more commercial development.”

Rownd added, “I get calls daily, especially from seniors, for this type of home. But we have none in Jacksonville.”
“I like the plan,” planning commissioner Emma Knight said after listening to pros and cons of the proposal for nearly an hour. “The city needs townhouses, but not at this location, that’s why I’m making a motion to deny the request,” she said to thunderous applause. The motion was quickly seconded and the vote of the commission put any plans for townhouses on the 26 acreages on hold for at least a year, according to Chairman Mark Stroud, forgetting that the developer could appeal the decision directly to the city council. If the council denies the townhouses, McClurg does have the option to sue the city. More than 60 people in attendance at the planning commission meeting opposed the townhouses, including local resident Michael Martello. “You can call them apartments, complexes, condos or townhouses—it’s still high density housing. What’s to stop the developer from selling the townhouses t a single seller who turns it into rental property.” he said.

Commission chairman Mark Stroud said the plan met the basic requirements and that there was a difference between apartments and townhouses according to the codebook. “But would you want this kind of development in your area?” Martello asked the commissioners. “It goes against the master plan of the city of Jacksonville, and what about an environmental impact statement as this property adjoins wetlands,” he said.

McClurg responded, “I’m not building something that will hurt my home sales. This is something good for Jacksonville and good to have on its Main Street.”