Wednesday, September 20, 2006

TOP STORY >>Cabot will consider rezoning request

Leader staff writer

A controversial rezoning request that consumed much of the Cabot City Council’s time last winter could well be a hot issue this fall. In February, residents who live across Highway 89 from Wal-Mart successfully fended off a rezoning of 11.5 acres owned by the Smith family that would have allowed a commercial development on their side of the highway.

City law says rezoning requests can’t be considered twice in the same year unless there is a substantial change in the request. So now the Smiths are asking the city to rezone 3.33 acres and the council and the planning commission agree that the change is substantial enough to meet the requirements of the law.

Late in 2005, the planning commission approved the first rezoning request and sent it to the council which has the final say. By that time, the residents of Sun Terrace subdivision which is behind the Smith’s property and other nearby residents were beginning to organize a protest to the rezoning.

The would-be developers met with the residents and promised good buffers and improved streets for the right to build a commercial subdivision. But residents said a commercial subdivision would make traffic worse at Rockwood and Highway 89 and they simply didn’t want it there.

In the end the residents prevailed and the development was quashed. Planning Commission chairman Ron Craig and Mike Bernardo, a member of the commission, told the council they needed its direction. “Does the council want a moratorium on building in certain places?” Bernardo asked.

Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh answered that the commission is an independent body with intelligent members who are capable of making recommendations that the council may or may not follow. Stumbaugh said it did bother him that the first proposed development included many concessions to the nearby residents that may not be feasible with a smaller one. In other business, the council approved a rezoning two parcels of land at Greystone Woods to allow a nursing home and an assisted living facility to be built there. Alderman James Glenn voted against the rezonings because one resident objected. Glenn has said he will never vote to rezone if the neighbors don’t want it.

The council also approved a rezoning at 52 and 54 South Pine Street from R-1 to O-1 that will allow an office building to go up where a duplex now stands and approved an annexation that will bring the school to be built at Stagecoach and Campground into the city limits.

The council also reappointed Dale McGregor to the Cabot Advertising and Promotion Commission. Alderman David Polantz’s resolution to review the city policy on employees’ using personal cell phones and explore the possibility of a “hands free” policy died for lack of a second.

Polantz said he was nearly run over by a city worker talking on a cell phone. The council passed an ordinance calling the cost of acquiring shielded light fixtures prohibitive. The state legislature passed a law in 2005 saying tax money could not be used to pay for lights that aren’t shielded. However, the law does not apply to municipalities that pass an ordinance saying the cost is too high. Most cities have done just that, City Attorney Clint McGue told the council, which passed the ordinance unanimously.