Leader Blues

Monday, August 13, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot commission approves rezoning

Leader staff writer

The most controversial rezoning in Cabot’s recent history made it through the planning commission Tuesday night and will go before the city council Aug. 20.

Whether businesses should be allowed at Rockwood and Hwy. 89 across from the commercial development that has grown up around Wal-Mart has been the subject of hot debate and one court case for about a decade.

The planning commission approved commercial rezoning there a year ago only to have that ruling overturned by the city council after residents of the subdivisions behind the property protested that traffic at the intersection is terrible now and would only get worse if more businesses go in.

They said accidents at the intersection increased 212 percent from 2000 to 2006 (from eight to 25). Adding credence to their claim were the two accidents at the intersection that very day.

Three months ago, the property, which has been known as the Smith property, went before the planning commission again for commercial rezoning after it was purchased by the Burrows Family Trust of Jonesboro.

The rezoning was denied, but the planning commission ruled Tuesday that the latest proposal of C-2 along Highway 89 and O-1 (for offices) abutting the residential area was different enough from the proposal three months ago that it could be heard again before the required one-year waiting period for resubmission.

Then, over the protests of the residents who filled the council chamber where the meeting was held, the commission voted to send the rezoning to the council where it will be voted up or down. Matt Webber was the only member who voted against the rezoning.

Residents said they were concerned for their children’s safety and that their property values would decline.

“Gentlemen, think when you vote,” said Carl Schmidt. “Would you want this in your neighborhood?”

Mary Ann Taft told the commission that she knew the area would eventually go commercial but that now is not the time. It should wait until Highway 89 is widened to four lanes.

“That’s not the last bit of commercial property in Cabot,” Taft said. “Is there any urgency about this?”

The commissioners said the city’s land-use plan calls for commercial zoning of the property along Highway 89, so they had little choice except to send the matter to the city council.

In other business, the commission approved a master street plan that must also go before the council for approval.

Commissioners agreed that it is important to have the plan in place so houses and businesses will not be built on land that the city needs for streets.

As expected, the commission denied a request for two additional driveways into Lakewood commercial subdivision on Highway 321. Developer Jim Green’s request for the road cuts died for lack of a motion to even consider approving it.
The commission told Green in July when they first heard his request that they were not inclined to approve the driveways because of the traffic problems they could cause as Highway 321 develops.