Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

TOP STORY >>Board angers chamber pair

Leader staff writer

“And you wonder why people want to develop in Sherwood instead of Jacksonville,” attorney Mike Wilson blurted out Monday after the planning commission turned down a request for apartment-style housing on a piece of property the city owns.

Wilson, representing the Chamber of Commerce Foundation, said the group felt the city would benefit by selling a piece of property located between Swift Drive and General Samuels Road for residential development.

The land is part of a larger parcel the city owns and is zoned M-2 for manufacturing and industry.

The foundation asked the planning commission to rezone the property to C-4 (commercial), and for conditional use of R-3 (multi-family housing). “The idea is to make this property as marketable as possible,” Wilson said. The commission agreed to the C-4 rezoning, but balked at the conditional-use request.

Commissioner Susan Dollar said she was open to the idea, but didn’t want to give a blanket approval. “What conditions can we place on it without seeing a plan?” she asked.

Commissioner John Herbold adamantly said, “We don’t need low-end rentals.” Wilson replied that city ordinances “don’t allow us to say what kind of rentals will be in an area. The marketplace will take care of that.”

Bonita Rownd, executive director of the chamber, added that one of the possible buyers of the land approached the chamber some time ago and had plans for higher quality units on the land.

“This will provide us with nice niche housing that is currently missing in our town,” she said.

Commissioner Art Brannen was against the idea because of the mix of traffic. “There’ll be city vehicles, plumbing trucks and cement trucks mixing with residential traffic,” he said. Commissioner Bart Gray Jr. wanted the developer to ask for the conditional use when he is ready to buy the property. The commission voted to go ahead with the commercial rezoning, but not the conditional, residential use. The turn down was the commission’s only no vote of the evening.

“We won’t be able to market it to any reasonable buyer,” Rownd said. Both her and Wilson left upset and disappointed with the commission’s actions.