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Council Seeks Compromise on Rezoning

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July 23, 2011 by wcobserver

City to Hire Police Officer, Ups Starting Pay

By Susan McCarthy

GREENLAND – City Council members sought common ground in their meeting Monday night in hopes of rendering a decision next month on a zoning appeal that seeks to build a single family home in an area zoned for heavy commercial use. In a 5-3 vote, City Council Members tabled the appeal until next month, but unanimously approved charging its Planning Commission to decide on a less intensive use clause at its next meeting.

Members of the City’s Planning Commission and City Council as well as property owners along Hwy. 265 in Greenland remain divided about what should be done about a zoning request that would convert commercially zoned property for residential use so its owner, Susan McGowan could build a single family home on the property.

Council Member Johney Boles said he’d like McGowan’s property to remain zoned C3 for heavy commercial use, but would like to find a way for her to build her home.

The split derives from those who maintain the city’s current zoning regulations are too rigid and don’t allow the land’s current owners much flexibility in how the land is used and those who remain firm that the zoning regulations provide a long-term view and any changes shouldn’t be made on behalf of a single individual, but as the city as a whole.

“We’re talking about 10 acres that could hold four or five businesses,” said Council Member Greg White, who says he opposes any rezoning on the behalf of an individual. He said any rezoning should be a part of an overall plan and did not want to “look at this on a case by case basis.”

White was among the three council members who voted against tabling a zoning decision, stating he saw the decision on McGowan’s appeal and considering any revisions to the city’s zoning code as two separate issues.

Monday night’s meeting found common ground when Council Member Stephanie Sharp suggested that the city adopt a less intensive use clause that would allow McGowan to build a home on the property without it having to be rezoned.

Michael Moore, Planning Commission Chairperson, said the commission ​previously considered a less intensive use clause, but it didn’t pass when put to a vote. Mayor Bill Groom said he felt now that a fifth member had been appointed to the commission that a decision could be reached.

Three Hwy. 265 property owners, two of which oppose a zoning change, told council members at the meeting they were agreeable to the less intensive use solution. McGowan, who currently lives in Tacoma, Washington, was not present at the meeting.

One of those opposing a zoning change was an attorney for First State Bank; the bank owns approximately five acres near McGowan.

“That area out there is probably the most valuable property in your city,” said Donnie Rutledge while expressing that rezoning McGowan’s property for residential use in the middle of a commercial zone would be a move backwards.
Rutledge voiced support for the less intensive use clause, saying that would resolve about 75 percent of his concerns.
Danny Wright, the city’s attorney said city’s current zoning makes the land unusable today while waiting for commercial growth to occur and a lesser intensive use clause would let property owners “put it to some use today.”
Groom said that when the city originally developed its zoning plan, council members knew it might need to be revisited and tweaked in the future.

“If you over-regulate, you’re going to choke yourself,” he said.

Dell Ragsdale, who also owns property on Hwy. 265 said she moved to Greenland to live in an agricultural area and said the lack of infrastructure in that area pushes the reality of commercial development into the future.

Last month, the planning commission could not reach a consensus on McGowan’s request to rezone 30 acres of land off Hwy. 265 in Greenland to R1, which applies to low density residential use. The commission, which only had four members at the time, was split 2-2 and neither a motion to approve or deny the request could garner enough votes to pass. The City Council appointed a fifth member at its meeting last month. Following the meeting, McGowan sent City Council members a letter appealing the decision.

In the letter, McGowan said she is willing to compromise and would accept a zoning change on the approximately 10 acres currently zoned for commercial use and would accept a R3 designation.

Wright said the council could only postpone a decision on McGowan’s appeal for a month and that a decision would have to be made at the Council’s August meeting.

McGowan’s property was rezoned in 2008 when the City of Greenland completed its Master Zoning Plan. About ten acres of her property were zoned for heavy commercial use, C3, and 20 acres were zoned R3, which ​would allow a single family home to be built. However, an oversight in the Zoning Code Chart, left the box unchecked that would permit a single family home to be built in an R3 zone. The city passed Ordinance 297 to correct the zoning chart in Monday night’s meeting, but McGowan has maintained throughout the process she wishes to build her home on the portion of property that is zoned for commercial use.

In other city council news:

The council increased the starting pay for a certified police officer to $28,500. Police Chief Gary Ricker said the city has not hired a new officer in about eight years and the city’s starting pay was no longer competitive. Ricker said Officer Wagnon, who has served as the department’s school resource officer resigned; his last day is July 15. Ricker said published ads this week seeking a new officer.

City Council Members approved $12,000 for the installation of new railroad panels that will make the crossings smoother on Wilson, Smith and Roadrunner streets in Greenland. The new panels are to be installed ahead of the Wilson Street paving project.

The city’s engineer, Ryan Gill, reported he has been able to garner enough support to get easements to install two pole lights on Lola Lane. Boles said he would speak to Ozark Electric about pulling a line from the East side of the street.

The City of Greenland has launched a FACEBOOK page and hopes citizens will become fans to keep up on events and important announcements.

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