November 16, 2017 10:41:54 AM
Starkville's planning and zoning commission denied a request to rezone two lots on the southeast side of Green Oaks to general business after a lengthy Tuesday evening public hearing.
The commission received a request from Mitchner Rentals, LLC, and Danielle V. Kelly to rezone the lots, located at 2003 and 2005 Hickory St., from R-1 single-family residential to C-2 general business. The lots contain two houses among a strip of eight in Green Oaks that sit along Highway 12. The lots are directly adjacent to a Chevron convenience station on Highway 12 by the Avenue of Patriots.
The strip is the only portion of the highway between Mississippi State University and the west end of town that is not zoned for commercial use.
Commissioners ultimately voted 5-1 against the request. Jason Camp, of Ward 1, Jim McReynolds, of Ward 2, Alexis Gregory of Ward 5, Jeremiah Dumas of Ward 6 and Tommy Verdell Jr. of Ward 7 opposed the rezoning. Tom Walker, of Ward 2, voted in favor of it. Commission Chairman Michael Brooks did not vote because he presided over Tuesday's meeting.
In order to change zoning, petitioners must prove an error in the original zoning or a substantial change in the character of the area and a public need for a change. A report city staff submitted to commissioners said there was no error in the zoning. The report notes the recent growth in businesses west of Louisville Street along Highway 12, such as the AT&T store, Cellular South store and Tractor Supply in 2011; Barnes Crossing Auto Sales, Dollar Tree, Kroger expansion and Panda Express in 2014; and Academy Sports that opened earlier this year, as potential character changes in the area.
'We don't need the west side of 12 to turn into 182'
Attorney Johnny Moore, who represented the applicants at Tuesday's meeting, said they were approached by a "national developer" that was looking to put a restaurant on Highway 12.
Moore argued that the city needs more businesses, especially on the west side of Highway 12, if growth continues to shift east toward Mississippi State University.
"We don't need the west side of (Highway) 12 to turn into (Highway) 182," Moore said. "Because if we see magnificent growth by campus, with the Walmart Neighborhood Market, we could see the west side of 12 turn into 182."
Neither of the lots is individually large enough for a restaurant, so they would have to be rezoned together and combined into one lot, Moore said.
"We're not without empathy for the neighborhood," Moore said. "We feel like there's a way we can do this that both sides can agree on."
Moore said the lot would not have an entrance or exit from the business onto Hickory Street for the protection of the neighborhood. He said it could also have a six-foot tall stone wall on the back side of the lot to prevent light pollution.
Moore also noted there are 42 total potential uses for C-2 general business zoning. Twenty-six of those, such as assisted living facilities, child care, transportation, utilities, vehicular sales and service and wholesale services, are permitted by right within the zoning district. Sixteen, such as farm support, community services and light manufacturing, are allowed by conditional use.
He said the lot wouldn't be used for any of the conditional uses, and could only be used for four categories -- business offices; eating and drinking establishments; general retail and services; and personal services -- of the permitted uses.
'Everything is not about money'
However, several Green Oaks residents spoke at Tuesday's meeting and said they don't want a commercial property butting into their neighborhood.
Peggy Carstens, who lives on Hickory Street, said she is "very against" the rezoning request. She questioned why a desire for more restaurant space in the city would have to come at the expense of Green Oaks, and contended it wasn't a public need as is necessary for a zoning change.
"Why does that need to be at the cost of our neighborhood?" she asked. "Why does our neighborhood need to dissipate in order for these restaurants (to come in). I don't see that as a public need. I see that as a financial commercial need that these restaurants want to come in to town."
Carstens also contended, in response to Moore's argument that Green Oaks is already bordered in many areas by commercial property, such as along Highway 12 or Stark Road, that the rezoning would allow those commercial areas to start encroaching into the neighborhood itself.
George Clark, another resident who said his parents live in Green Oaks and he's owned several houses in Green Oaks, spoke.
"Everything is not about money," Clark said. "A lot of things are about quality of life."
During the commission's discussion, Walker argued the consideration shouldn't be about what changes have occurred in Green Oaks, but the ones that have occurred along Highway 12.
"Everybody keeps talking about Green Oaks," Walker said. "The issue is not Green Oaks. The issue is the Highway 12 corridor, and that has changed."
Gregory, though, argued the commission should consider the whole picture.
"We can't ignore Green Oaks in this conversation," Gregory said. "Both of them have to be discussed and we've talked about quality of life and the impact on Green Oaks just as much as we've talked about the impact on 12. So we can't negate Green Oaks."
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