Monteagle Planning: Mother-In-Law Suites, Agritourism, ‘Forever Wild’ Wish

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Jan. 4 meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission investigated strategies for accommodating mother-in-law suites in single-family residences, an agritourism project, and Cooley Rift residents’ intention to purchase adjoining property to preserve the land in a “forever wild” state.

Building inspector Earl Geary introduced a question from a property owner wanting to build a residence with a mother-in-law suite on property zoned R-3. The property owner proposed connecting the mother-in-law suite to the primary dwelling by a breezeway. Geary noted Monteagle allowed single-family residences on R-3 property, but to meet the qualification of a single-family dwelling, separate living quarters must not have separate entrances.

“That would make a duplex out of a single-family residence,” Geary said.

Planning Commission Chair Iva Michelle Russell acknowledged “The dignity of separate domicile … [as] an important part of the culture.”

The planning commission will revisit the question at a workshop on R-3 and R-4 zoning prior to the Feb. 1 meeting.

Matt Sparacio, owner of an approximate 150-acre tract, presented an overview of his plan for an agritourism complex at a site between the Country Mart and Dollar General. Sparacio’s plan calls for raising pigs, goats, cattle and chickens, and selling the meat raised. The venue would offer hiking, educational and holiday theme tours, a petting zoo and include a large event building with restrooms and play areas featuring a “pretend” farmers market and veterinary clinic. Town planner Annya Shalun said Monteagle commercial zoning allowed agriculture uses. With agricultural uses in mind, Geary approved a pole barn, but Sparacio wanted to add restrooms and other amenities not consistent with agricultural use.

Rather than amending rules governing agricultural uses, Shalun recommended the town consider an Agricultural Overlay District, a solution adopted by other municipalities.

“It sounds almost too liberal to me,” said Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman, expressing concern neighboring property owners might object to livestock being raised.

Shalun stressed the “flexibility” of the Agricultural Overlay District model. “You can tailor it to exactly what you want.”

Shalun will provide the commission with examples of Agricultural Overlay Districts in other communities as a possible strategy for Sparacio to move forward.

Mike Henning addressed the commission on behalf of a coalition of 38 Cooley’s Rift residents who want to purchase a 350-acre tract of land adjoining Cooley’s Rift, offered for sale by the developers for hunting and timbering. Henning said the group had money in escrow to purchase the property and intended to attach restrictive covenants to the tract “to protect it and leave it forever wild.” Problems arose, Shalun explained, because regulations required an access easement built to construction standards, which was not possible on the bluff tract. Subdividing the tract with the impacted adjacent landowners assuming ownership allowed access, except for one landlocked parcel. For the sale to proceed, the planning commission needed to approve the subdivided plat, Shalun said.

The prospective buyers will work with Shalun to resolve the landlocked issue. The planning commission will hold a special called meeting at 10 a.m., Friday, Jan. 21, to approve the subdivided plat so the sale can move forward on the contracted Jan. 30 closing date. Henning expressed concern if the sale did not go forward, a timber company could purchase the land.

Resident Dean Lay spoke in support of keeping property highly visible from the interstate in a natural state and suggested the commission consider regulations to curtail timber harvest on highly visible bluff tracts within its regional zoning authority.

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