Zoning vote delayed again

Published 10:22 pm Wednesday, June 18, 2014

After nearly two hours of discussion, City Council voted Wednesday to send consideration of a rezoning on Bridge Road back to the Planning Commission.

The developers of the site at 3345 Bridge Road said they were not able to sell tenants on the site in its current office-institutional zoning. They hoped to rezone it to a neighborhood commercial zoning and, had that zoning passed, the City Council would have considered a conditional use permit for 144 garden apartments.

Sam Cohen, one of the principals of the developers, said the first building on the 18-acre site was permitted in April 2008. Some of the units are occupied, but the market has not materialized for a complete build-out of the site, Cohen said.

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“The opposition will tell you I haven’t marketed it correctly,” Cohen said. But he said about three different entities, including S.L. Nusbaum Realty, have been involved and all have failed to attract more tenants.

The representative with S.L. Nusbaum, Cohen said, told him it would take 30 years to fill the site in its current zoning.

“Don’t spend any money on a study,” Cohen said. “I’ve already done it for you. It won’t work.”

Six nearby residents, as well as an attorney for one of the families, spoke in opposition to the rezoning, expressing concerns about traffic, children near a busy highway and the city’s loss of control over what happens with the site had the rezoning been approved.

“I’ve got lots of concerns about this,” said neighbor Kittrell Eberwine, who shares a driveway with the site. “I couldn’t imagine sharing a driveway with 144 other families.”

Whitney Saunders, the attorney, said it was unusual for a rezoning to be considered absent of any included guarantee of what the developers hope to do with the land. Even though the separate conditional use permit request on Wednesday’s agenda would have put a 144-unit apartment complex there, Saunders said it would be possible for the applicants to withdraw that immediately after the rezoning.

Neighbors weren’t the only ones opposed — city staff and the Planning Commission both had recommended denying the application.

After a tied vote to deny the request and a recess to allow Saunders to consult with his clients — City Council members took the opportunity to consult among themselves, with the city attorney and with the applicants — a motion was made to approve the request. It never came to a vote, however, and the motion to send the topic back to the Planning Commission passed on a 7-1 vote. Councilman Roger Fawcett was the sole vote in opposition, having been the one who made the original motion to deny the request.