Harry Hipps attended the Planning and Zoning Board meeting as a representative of the Hound. His thoughts to me were that if the rest of the city were represented the way that this board carried itself, then the city would be in good hands.
The main reason he attended the meeting was to get a perspective of how this board would deal with The Drinking Establishment Moratorium Issue. Those, along with several other fascinating developments, are detailed below:
Several projects and zoning requests were discussed during the meeting of the Planning and Zoning Board. We will highlight only the main issues here and encourage readers to read the full minutes of city government for themselves.
A planned project by Pete Zagaroli on Hwy 127, at the location of the 127 Steakhouse and Century 21 Real Estate office was given unanimous approval by the Board. It will have two buildings of 20,000 square feet each with parking and some buffering. The first building will have two stories of office space. The second will have one story of office space and an upper story of residential space.
A large project by Third Gate Properties was approved that will extend from the area behind Shoney’s on Fairgrove Church Road to close to C R Laine on Hwy 70 SE. The area near Fairgrove will have some commercial and retail buildings then it will have townhomes marketed to HUD housing. The board commended the developer for his thorough planning which will include numerous street, water, sewer and runoff infrastructure improvements.
THE HOUNDS TAKE: These are two good, well planned projects that bring proper growth to the area. The plans are solid and will be executed by proven, competent developers.
The longest and most vocal issue was a requested zoning change on Hwy 127, at the Whisnant Farm property, by Pete Zagaroli from R3 to PDMU. This would allow mixed use of residential, office, retail, commercial tenants. Mr. Zagaroli presented an upscale concept of offices, and anchor tenant such as an upscale grocer, possibly a micro winery, and some high end townhouses. Reaction from Moore’s Ferry residents was mixed with some liking the upscale concept and pedestrian-friendly project and others not liking any commercial development at all. Some concern was expressed about the aesthetic aspects of the buffering – how it would look and should it allow pedestrian access to Moore’s Ferry. Crime and security impacts on the neighborhood were another concern by the residents. It appeared that the opposition increased by the property owners that lived on the east side of Moore’s Ferry nearer to the planned project.
The Board had concerns with water runoff and traffic issues. Water runoff is already a concern in this area and the impervious surfaces on the project would be in excess of 50%, well above the allowable 24% threshold (which could be mitigated by a runoff control plan). The bottleneck of Hwy 127 and Cloninger Mill Road was also a concern.
With Mr. Zagaroli not having a firm commitment from an anchor tenant, and uncertain economy which could delay implementing the project and the water runoff issues the Board recommended denying the request. It will be taken up at Hickory City Council on Nov. 18.
THE HOUND TAKE: Mr. Zagaroli’s concept is interesting and it appears that the community consensus is that if he could pull it off as conceptualized it would be a good thing. However, with the current financial and macroeconomic environment deteriorating there are a lot of unknowns and not enough solid commitments to proceed with it at this time. Allowing a zoning change would possibly allow some other developer to build a much less desirable project if Mr. Zagaroli were not able to implement his concept. It’s probably wise to delay the project and hope that it can proceed at a future time when economic conditions are more favorable.
Finally the Board denied zoning changes that would restrict where bars and nightclubs can operate. The Board expressed some frustration as to why the problem that the City Council wants to address, specifically the number of Police calls that the nightclubs generate, would be sent to Planning and Zoning. Secondly, they were perplexed as to why they should deal with this now since the City is going to rewrite the whole land use plan in a couple of months. They were sympathetic to the problem but felt that this was not the proper venue.
THE HOUNDS TAKE: The Board did the right thing. This whole issue is a pet project cooked up by the City Council at February’s retreat. And since the year is almost over and they haven’t done anything, they are in a rush to meet an arbitrary, self-imposed deadline. The problem is some bad management by some of the bar owners and it is not a problem of land use. This whole issue could probably be resolved by a meeting with the bar owners to work with them to reduce problems.
Alex Rooker’s suggestion that they could get a couple of free Police calls per month, followed by fees imposed on excessive calls to Police seems like a much more reasonable response. The harsh, authoritarian approach to this issue speaks poorly about how some members of City Council want to impose their will, rather than communicate with citizens and build consensus on solutions. We are also highly suspicious that this has a lot to do with denying the Cercil Brothers the permit they have petitioned for and which the City is now spending our tax dollars in court fighting. If Council had the professionalism of the Planning and Zoning Board we would be a lot better off.
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