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home : business : business November 24, 2015

6/24/2014 10:55:00 AM
Commission splits on zoning request

In his third presentation of options to get his North Sisters Business Park building lots zoned residential, developer Peter Hall got a 3-3 split vote from the planning commission.

In two previous appearances before the commission, Hall's proposal has received a thumbs-down from the planning commission. In April the city council was moving towards approval of the zoning request, overturning the planning commission's two recommendations that they deny the proposal. The mayor and several councilors were reluctant to directly overturn a commission recommendation, so the council requested that the commission take another look.

Between each of the presentations of Hall's proposal, both Hall and the city staff have made significant changes to the proposal, responding to the commission's stated objections to the project.

Both of the commission's initial rejections were based on two primary factors: The commission was concerned about putting single-family residential homes within 15 feet of light industrial tenants. These tenants include a rock crushing operation, a log home building operation, and a number of shops.

Second, the commission was concerned about deviating from the hard-fought master plan developed by the city and a number of volunteers back in 2009. In that plan, the northern section of the city was to remain light industrial with a business park "transition zone" between the houses and the businesses.

In her staff presentation, Community Development Director Pauline Hardie outlined two new modified proposals for the rezoning of the business park.

The first proposal increased to 150 feet what had been a 100-foot buffer between the light industrial lots and the building lots. The construction of a mini-storage facility in that buffer zone would need to be complete before any houses could be build.

The second proposal eliminated all the residential lots south of Lundgren Mill Drive, leaving them zoned as business park lots. This would give a roughly 350-foot buffer between the light industrial area and the residential homes. It is hoped that the buildings of new business park residents would provide an additional sound and visual buffer.

While commending Hall's "stick-to-it-tiveness," Commissioner Doug Roberts said, "Personally I don't see that as a residential section. I struggle that we would give up business park property. When we brought the airport in (to the city), Benny Benson talked about the fact that, weather-permitting, he is going to direct air his flights right over the top of (this park) because he doesn't want to hassle with those of us that live north of the airport. I can't bring myself to support either of these proposals."

Roberts also questioned the staff report's assessment that there were only 11 years of building lots available. He pointed out again that the "burn rate" of residential building permits used by the city was calculated from a select nine-month period that includes the major build-out of Hayden Homes, which is almost complete at this point.

Commissioner Darren Layne saw the most recent proposal as a good compromise.

"I wasn't in favor of any of the previous proposals. I think this is a good compromise," he said. "I think if you get some vibrancy in there, we will get (some businesses) and attract them."

"This is by far the best solution out of all," said Commissioner Jeanne Fairman, voting no. "I still have concerns that the area originally went through all the trials and tribulations of being zoned for the trucks and heavy equipment. I'm still really concerned about the mix."

Darryl Tewalt also voted no.

"I'm a little worried about creating a residential bubble if we haven't already done it," he said. "Right now, the separation between light industrial and that existing zone up there is pretty appropriate."

The planning commissions' split recommendation will be forwarded to the city council where the council will make the final decision on the rezone.

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