Saturday, October 05, 2013

TOP STORY >> No decision after raucous planning meeting

Leader staff writer

For sheer entertainment value, the almost three-hour-long planning commission meeting in Cabot Tuesday night was one to watch.

The meeting was orderly with homeowners from Glenwood Estates subdivision explaining why they don’t want 42 garden homes built behind them on 6.2 acres until a woman started talking from the audience about the pristine appearance of their neighborhood and Planning Commission Chairman Ron Craig said he’d been in their neighborhood, and he had seen residents working on cars in driveways. The woman denied it; Craig said the residents were lying to him and pandemonium followed.

“You’re out of order, Ron,” a man yelled from the back of the room. “You’re an (expletive), Ron.”

“Recuse yourself right now,” another man yelled as he came out of his seat.

“Who do you work for and how much is he paying you?” another man demanded.

“If you do not bring fact to us, we can’t make a decision,” Craig responded. “The fact is you don’t want it there, and I understand. But I have a zoning book to go by.”

Commission member James Reid said during a short recess after the proposed rezoning for the subdivision was tabled for one month that he likes audience participation but perhaps not that kind.

Reid provided the lone vote against tabling the rezoning request.

“We had enough information to vote,” he said. “That could go R-1, and it would be much worse.”

Development of Glenwood started about 25 years ago. There are 43 homes on about 25 lots. The homes are all different and range in value from about $175,000 to almost $300,000.

They back up to the freeway with only a strip of trees separating them. And that strip of trees is where engineer Tim Lemons said his client intends to build a gated community of small but high-dollar homes. They’d like to save the trees, but that won’t be possible, he said.

Lemons is asking for a rezoning from residential to planned unit development or PUD.

The PUD would allow the developer to build more houses on less land because the yards would be much smaller. One lot would hold one house chosen from three designs ranging in size from 1,400 square feet to 1,650 square feet. Front yards would be 20 feet, side yards five feet and backyards 10 feet.

Lemons said the houses would be all brick with steep roofs, hard-surface counters and have crown molding on the ceilings. They would be marketed to people over 55 who want a nice but small home and don’t want to do a lot of yard work.

Billy McCarroll, an 18-year resident of Glenwood Estates who got 42 of 43 residents to sign a petition opposing the rezoning, spoke first for the residents.

The PUD will “dramatically and forever change the character of our neighborhood,” McCarroll said.

Clear cutting the 40-foot trees along the freeway would make the noise worse, he said.

“A gated community gives the impression that Glenwood isn’t a safe place to live. It will lower property values and many residents will leave,” McCarroll continued.

Traffic would double on streets that are badly in need of repair. Construction traffic could go on for more than five years since more houses will be built only after the first few are sold. And, since there are no sidewalks in Glenwood, children will have no place to walk to avoid construction trucks, he said.

Addressing residents’ concerns about traffic backing up as the garden-home residents wait to get through their gate, Lemons said the developers could inset the gate 30 feet or more to stack cars going in.

They would also build a wash station to clean construction trucks at the site and keep the mud inside the gate and out of Glenwood.

The planned, six-foot high fence along the freeway could be raised to eight feet to help with the noise, he added.

But Glenwood resident Simon Wass pointed out that the freeway is more than eight feet higher, in places, than the land where the new subdivision will be built and the noise would go over the fence.

Wass’ wife Shannon said as she was leaving the meeting that without the trees there would be no noise buffer from the freeway and she would want to move. But, with no noise buffer from the freeway, no one would want to buy her home.

Lemons said, in response to residents’ concerns that if the planning commission and later the city council approve the rezoning something else could go in, his client will not be able to build anything except the 42 garden homes without getting approval from the commission and council.

But if the land is left R-1 instead of being rezoned to PUD, developers could build 900-square-foot houses with vinyl siding behind their homes and there would be no way to stop them, Lemons added.