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P&Z plan sparks questions, but not fireworks

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By Sharon Graves

By SHARON GRAVES

The News-Democrat

There were no fireworks at Monday’s public hearing on proposed zoning changes in the city.

But, there were a lot of questions – and the answers seemed to satisfy those present.

Residents along Polk, Fourth and Fifth streets showed up Monday night to learn about a possible change from I-1, Light Industrial, to R-3 or Residential zoning in their neighborhood.

The change affects 15 properties; the owners of six of the properties attended the hearing to find out, first hand, the reasoning behind the proposed change.

Ronnie Meadows, 418 Polk St., said he was concerned about houses going up next door to him, and if the city might re-open an alley he believes was formally closed.

Nick Marsh said he didn’t know if the alley in question had been closed, officially, by the city, and said he would research the issue. But opening or closing alleys is not handled by P&Z, he said.

Meadows’ wife, Janice, asked why the change is being considered now.

Several members of the commission explained that many of the properties in the I-1 zoning actually are residential. But, Marsh said, no one has actually come before the P&Z to request the change.

“We are trying to get the paperwork to match what is really going on,” he said.

Additionally, under I-1 zoning, homeowners cannot add onto their homes or build garages or other outbuildings, Marsh explained. A residential designation would change that.

Of the properties affected by this change, Walter Albert, 516 Fifth St., owns the only commercial property – the building that once was Hill’s Grocery. He was concerned that the zone change would be detrimental to his property.

Code enforcement officer John Welch assured Albert that under R-3 zoning, his property would still be classified as pre-existing and non-conforming, and would not be affected.

“What will this do to taxes?” aked Frank Fitzerald, owner of 601 and 603 Fifth St.

“That will be up to Rob Robertson, the property valuation administrator,” Marsh said.

Others seemed concerned that the move would allow low-income housing to be built in the area.

“I do not know of any low-income housing being considered for that area,” Marsh said.  “Those requests would have to come through this commission, and we haven’t had any.”

“In my opinion it’s going to increase their property values, because they are not sitting on worthless pieces of industrial property,” Commissioner Sam Burgess said when the regular meeting began. “It’s for the mutual benefit of the property owners.”

The commission voted 6-0 to send the recommendation on to city council. Commissioner Barry Brown, who owns property near the area considered, abstained; Commissioner Marjorie Adams was absent.  

The next regular meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, as that Monday is Labor Day.