Board rejects request for zoning change

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2008

City aldermen Tuesday rejected the Brookhaven PlanningCommission’s recommendation to rezone an area that fronts WestChickasaw and Cleveland streets to allow for more rental propertyto be built.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes was adamant the area shouldnot be rezoned from R1, the city’s most restrictive zoning level,to R2. She pointed to the fact that the planning commission’sdecision was not unanimous, as well as the fact that there is not acompelling need for rental property in the area.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips, who served on the planningcommission in 1998, when the area was originally zoned for rentals,explained that the initial decision to rezone was based on aquandary the landowner was having with selling the property.

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Phillips said in 1998 the property was rezoned from R2 to R3 toallow for eight single-family townhomes, with six fronting WestChickasaw and two on Cleveland. Part of the decision, he said, wasbased on the fact that the units were to be sold, not rented.

When the property changed hands, two more units were constructedon Cleveland Street, and the new owner came to the planningcommission to tell them he was unable to sell them.

Phillips said the board was asked at that time to rezone from R3to R2 to rent the townhomes. After some discussion it was separatedit into eastern and western parcels, and the eastern one waschanged to R2 to allow the landowner to rent them.

Meanwhile, the western parcel was changed back to R1.

“I don’t think it was ever the intention of the board for thisarea to be rental,” Phillips said.

Phillips pointed out that the board had recommended the changebased on the fact that there was not a mistake in the originalzoning, and there is a need for duplexes in the area.

“The board has argued that there is a need that would warrantthe change,” Phillips said. “But after reviewing the minutes myfeeling is that the intent was never to have rental there, and forthat I’d be inclined to support the denial on grounds that therehasn’t been a substantial change in the area to warrant it.”

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell felt that the original R2 zoningshould be able to be reinstated without much fuss, stating thereare also rental houses all over the neighborhood.

City Attorney Joe Fernald told the board that if the planningcommission’s recommendation was voted down, a full hearing must behad with the landowner and legal counsel.

“We have to have a hearing and give him due process if hechooses to,” Fernald said. “If you’re against it, vote against it,if you’re for it, vote for it. But if you vote it down he has theright to come before this board for a hearing.”

Dennis Allred, who requested the zoning change, was not presentat last night’s meeting.

Fernald also said the people in the neighborhood can appeal thedecision as well. He said during the hearing, lawyers would examinethe findings of the previous planning commissions and callwitnesses for testimony.

“There are details that need to be cleared up,” he said. “Thisboard is not bound by the precedent of past planning boarddecisions.”