Board upholds rejection of zoning change

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Brookhaven aldermen voted Tuesday night to uphold their earlierdecision not to allow a piece of property that fronts ChickasawStreet to be rezoned to R2 to allow for more rental property.

Aldermen had voted at the Dec. 2, 2008 meeting – against aplanning commission recommendation – not to allow an empty lot onChickasaw to be rezoned from R1 to R2. R1 has the strictestguidelines on what can be built, and R2 allows for multi-familyhousing and mobile homes.

Landowner Dennis Allred requested a public hearing in order toappeal the decision. At last night’s hearing, he said he would needto put two duplexes on the land in order to recoup the money he’sput into it.

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The land, located in Ward Four, is fronted on two sides bymulti-family rental property.

McComb attorney Brandon Frazier told the board his client hadput a good bit of money into the property and would buildaesthetically pleasing and well-built structures on the propertythat would compliment the area. He said Allred just wanted hisvoice heard.

“We just ask you to listen to what we have to present, and giveus a fair shot,” he said. “He wants to make it more than anabandoned, vacant lot.”

Frazier and Allred attempted to show that Allred had bought theland under an R2 zoning, and that the complexion of theneighborhood had changed since the lot was zoned R1. Ward TwoAlderman Terry Bates pointed out that the land had been R3, whichis the most flexible of all the classifications, at one point.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips, who served on the planningcommission before being elected to the board of aldermen, said hehad transcripts of the zoning discussions on the land dating backto 1998.

“Once we rezone that land, we don’t have a mechanism todetermine that these will be built there,” he said.

Phillips pointed out that something could go awry and Allredcould sell the land, and the next owner could put in several mobilehomes if it were zoned R2.

“The planning commission needs to be able to dictate what goeson that property in order to dictate the integrity of the area,” hesaid.

City Attorney Joe Fernald said a covenant could be attached tothe land, insuring that mobile homes would never be allowed there,a condition which Frazier said he’d be amenable to.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes said she was simply worriedthat rental property, if gone unchecked, can bring down the landvalue.

“For whatever it’s worth, if I see a flood coming and there’s adam there and it’s got a hole in it, I’m going to do my best tostick my finger or something in that hole,” Estes said.

Allred assured the aldermen that he would keep the land up,including landscaping and mowing. Aldermen expressed worries thathe would sell the land, much like he did the neighboring propertyafter he put duplexes on it.

John Myers, of Frazier Realty in McComb, said he had done asurvey of the residences in the area and that a good number of themwere rental property. He said three of the rental properties wereon a lot zoned R3, two – on the property Allred had formerly owned- were zoned R2, and one was in an R1 zone.

Estes told Allred that she was fighting the development becauseit would be against what was best for her ward.

“It’s Mr. Allred’s desire to recoup his money, and it’s WardFour’s desire to hope that if he built it it would not deterioratethe integrity of the neighborhood,” she said.

The city also brought in two residents from Becker Street, twostreets over, who testified that they did not feel the familyatmosphere of the area could be kept intact if more rental propertywas brought in.

“I’m very concerned with the element that comes with rentalproperty,” said Tracy Whittington. “I’ve lived a lot of places andseen a lot of neighborhoods deteriorate because of rentalproperty.”

Frazier, in his closing argument, pointed out the need forrental property in Brookhaven.

“Don’t think renters are a bad thing for the city,” he said.”Not everyone is an attorney, and not everyone can afford to buy ahome. Please consider not only the people who own a home, but thosewho have to wait until they can buy one.”

Allred indicated that though he would lose money, he might buildtwo single-family structures on the land if the board rejected hisdecision.