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  • Doug Smith

What about the residents on East Wilson Bridge Road?

At the December 6 city council meeting, Council voted to approve the zoning change on three sections, totaling 14 parcel properties.

Council voted on each zone separately since each section came with unique reasons for the zoning change.

The first section was a set of four parcels, owned by the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC), the city’s land bank organization and mechanism to purchase land.

The CIC had been acquiring the parcels for the past several years with the specific intention to rezone to a commercial property zone. There is much interest from the business community to develop cottage-style commercial offices, and this is a good location to accomplish the goal.

I sit on the CIC board, and I have been supportive of this zoning change since we began acquiring properties. Council voted to support the zoning change (vote 6-1).

The second and third sections were each a grouping of a total of 10 individual properties, each currently owned by owner-occupied homeowners.

In 2011, the city proposed a plan to change the first grouping of three homes to commercial zoning and the second grouping of seven homes to higher-density residential zoning for apartments or dense patio homes.

Council never acted on the proposal until this December. Both zoning changes were approved by Council (vote 5-2). I was one of the ‘no’ votes.

The problem, as I see it, with rezoning an occupied residential property, is the current residential home is labeled as a “non-conforming use” and serious restrictions are placed on home repairs.

Now those residents cannot add on to their home, cannot make major repairs, and cannot rebuild if there is fire or tree branch damage.

There was resident opposition as you might imagine. The opposition was not NIMBYism. It was property right protection. Council approved a change that directly impacts resident property in a forceful way.

It is an unfortunate reminder that some people prefer plowing through their mediocre and unwarranted plans instead of serving the residents who will be the most affected.

I have always voted for resident property rights and for the best interest of residents most impacted. I have voted with the residents, because that’s who I serve.

As a result of some neighborhood pushback and some discussions among Council and staff, Council voted to charge the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) with proposing solutions that will help alleviate some of the strain put on the current residents. This could include allowing residents (in non-conforming use zones) improve their homes, remodel, and repair.

I hope the MPC brings some great recommendations to Council so the residents can live in peace. Let’s just hope none of the residents have any storm damage in the meantime.


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