Leader Blues

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

TOP STORY >>Rezoning is passed in Cabot for office

Leader staff writer

Many of the same Cabot residents who successfully fought a commercial rezoning across from Wal-Mart earlier this year turned out last night for a planning commission meeting where a small part of that land was up for rezoning again.

Over their protests, the planning commission approved the rezoning request 4-2 and it will be sent to the city council later this month for final approval. If the council also approves the rezoning, construction of a Crye-Leike real estate office can begin as soon as the city approves a site plan.

The property that could be rezoned is 1.3 acres in the middle of an 11.5 -acre tract owned by Mike Smith. The council refused in February to rezone the whole tract after the residents organized to fight it. The would-be developers promised buffers between the commercial and residential developments and improvements to streets to im-prove the traffic flow, but the residents said they were concerned about increased traffic on Highway 89. They didn’t want the driveway to a commercial development using Rockwood, and they were generally opposed to what they believe is encroachment into their neighborhood.

Seven months later, they haven’t changed their minds, and they are convinced that if the city rezones 1.3 acres for Smith, the rest will eventually follow. “We have been a neighborhood,” Bill Staggs told the commission. “We have lived a quality of life we enjoy, many of us for more than 20 years. And we feel like that is being taken away from us.

“Are you going to stop here, or is it going to continue acre by acre until you get the whole 11 acres?” he asked. According to a city ordinance, a rezoning request can’t be made twice in the same year unless there is a substantial change in the request. The city council agreed in September that taking off 10 acres was a substantial change and that the commission could hear the request again.

Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh said he was concerned that the planning that was being done for the larger tract is not feasible for smaller parcels and that the development would be less controlled than it could have been. Gerald Garner, one of the residents, told the commission that some of the residents might be willing to support the rezoning if the developer would agree to put the driveway in the middle of the 11.5 acres so it could be shared with other businesses as the tract develops to keep the traffic off Rockwood.

But from the planning commission’s perspective, that agreement would be between the residents and the developer because with such a small parcel, a planned development like the one in the works earlier this year is not possible. “How can you vote tonight when you don’t even know where the street is going?” asked resident Janet Henry.

Ron Craig, commission chairman, pointed out that the rezoning comes first and then the site plan is approved. Although the commission sometimes knows when it recommends rezoning property what type of business is going in, that information is not usually part of the rezoning request. Craig said the residents were mistaken if they believed the commission could tell them what other businesses might eventually locate in their area if the rezoning for the real estate office is approved. It was a reasonable assumption that Smith would eventually try to rezone all 11.5 acres, he said, but no one knows what businesses will move in.

The rezoning will be on the agenda of the Oct. 16 city council meeting.