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No medical offices for Millwright Parkway property

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 by Jo Clifton

When does a neighborhood’s valid petition not require the support of a supermajority of City Council for a zoning change? Answer: when the property does not have permanent zoning.

Christy Bickel, who lives in the Anderson Mill Limited District, gathered the signatures of a majority of property owners surrounding a property at 11812 Millwright Parkway in hopes of persuading Council not to approve Limited Office Mixed-Use zoning (LO-MU). However, as staff explained, the city was unable to validate the petition because the property had only interim zoning. Only applications for rezoning are subject to the three-fourths rule, under which a valid petition like Bickel’s would otherwise have subjected the decision to a supermajority vote.

Bickel told Council on Thursday, “I understand the valid petition is not a binding document in this case; however, I would hope the Council would take the opposition with the same significance. As indicated on the map, I’ve collected signatures from a majority of the affected homeowners. I have also collected signatures of surrounding homes in the neighborhood who also hold the same position.”

Bickel explained that the property in question, which was zoned interim Single-Family Residence-2 (SF-2), had been a quiet child care center for many years before it burned down in December 2014. “The child care center provided a transition between single-family homes and commercial retail fronting Anderson Mill (Road), fulfilling zoning principle No. 7 and the condition under which we bought our house,” said Bickel. She said she and her neighbors would be happy if the new owner of the property would build a new child care center at that location – something he could do under neighborhood office (NO) zoning.

“We love our quiet and safe neighborhood,” Bickel said. “We want to preserve that. For the last few decades, the child care (center) has set a precedent for an acceptable use of this property. It was a single-occupant, single-story building with a light footprint on the property. There were no night and weekend usage hours, which led to minimal noise and light pollution and added to the residential character of the neighborhood.”

Council Member Don Zimmerman, who represents the area, said he was quite familiar with the location, adding that traffic was terrible during the morning drop-off and evening pickup times for the children. But Bickel was hoping for another quiet child care center.

As Bickel explained, the property owner, who goes under the name NZ Lands Inc., had requested Limited Retail zoning (LR), which had the neighborhood very concerned. But staff recommended the lower impact LO zoning.

It was at the Zoning and Platting Commission that Bickel learned more about zoning, she explained. Two members of the ZAP voted against LO–MU for the property, saying they wanted to prohibit medical offices there because of the higher number of cars associated with that use, she said.

Council Member Leslie Pool, whose interests do not often align with Zimmerman’s, suggested that Council zone the property LO-MU but with a conditional overlay prohibiting medical office use.

The owner of the property was not at Thursday’s Council meeting, and Council Member Ora Houston asked, “So we could amend it any way we wanted to benefit the neighbors?”

Greg Guernsey, director of the Planning and Zoning Department, told Houston that that was the case, although he strongly recommended that Council adopt permanent zoning for the property.

Zimmerman then made the motion to zone the property as Pool had suggested, LO-MU, but with a prohibition on medical office use. Pool seconded, and all those on the dais voted in favor of the new zoning on all three readings. With Council members Greg Casar and Sheri Gallo not attending this part of the meeting, the motion got the nine votes it would have needed to override a valid petition.

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