City officials mull zoning for newly annexed areas

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 16, 2007

The Brookhaven Board of Aldermen and the Planning Commissionheld a work session Tuesday night with an Oxford planningconsultant to discuss zoning issues in the new annexation area.

Urban Planning Consultant Mike Slaughter assured the group thatthere will be no tax-related changes until the new areas are zonedand the owner changes how the land is used.

“Say the land has trees and cows on it and has been used forfarming and we zone it industrial,” said Slaughter. “If the usedoesn’t change, the tax doesn’t change.”

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Mayor Bob Massengill rephrased what Slaughter said forclarification and emphasis.

“The zoning has no bearing, then,” he said. “It’s how it’sactually used until the use changes.”

Massengill said that was one of the popular misconceptions ofpeople living in the newly annexed areas. The mayor said residentswere afraid that they would end up being taxed unfairly based onhow their property was zoned.

Members of the planning commission asked questions of Slaughterregarding various specific areas of the new city boundaries andzoning them.

“The way I’d proceed with this is to zone the property for thehighest and best use, not necessarily where the owner anddevelopment can make the best money,” he said. “Then once it goesfrom the planning commission to the board for approval, that’s whenyou have the public hearing and people can voice their oppositionand opinions.”

Planning commission member Lu Becker pointed out that therecould be routine opposition expected at the public hearing.

“That’s where the problem comes,” she said.

One great source of discussion was the issue of trailer parksand mobile homes in the city. By city ordinance, there can betrailer parks in areas zoned R-3, and there can be mobile homes inareas zoned R-2. There are currently three trailer parks in theannexed area, and meeting attendees expressed concerns aboutcommunity appearance.

“That’s why the sooner the better,” Slaughter said. “We need toget these decisions handed down quick, and my firm is willing to dothis as expeditiously as possible.”

Once the zoning map is finalized, it is sent to the board forapproval, pending a public hearing. The hearing can be held infront of aldermen or before the planning commission.

City Attorney Joe Fernald pointed out that the public hearingshould probably be held before the Planning Commission so that anyappeals could be heard by the Board of Aldermen in making the finaldecision.

Slaughter said the zoning should be completed in the next threeweeks to a month, and that he would also soon have the wardredistricting completed.