Monteagle Grapples with Apartments in Commercial Zoning


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the June 7 meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission grappled with a question they have revisited multiple times in the past year: Dean Lay’s request to build apartments on a C-2 lot adjacent the Clifftops residential development. “We do need housing. We need affordable housing,” observed Planning Commission Chair Iva Michelle Russell, but she stressed the town did not want to lose options for sales tax revenue from business. “That’s where we pay our bills.”

Commission Richard Black asked why the lot could not be rezoned to R-3 to allow for apartments. He said he approved of apartments in that location, but not on all C-2. The lot currently contains concrete rubble from a demolished building.

Town planner Annya Shalun said to rezone a single tract in a commercial corridor to residential would constitute “spot rezoning.” Shalun recommended considering two possible C-2 zoning amendment options: allowing apartments as a “special exception on review” or allowing “mixed-use” with retail on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor as “a special exception on review.” Shalun noted, however, the Board of Zoning Appeals had “a difficult time deciding” on special exceptions.

Russell expressed concern about “arbitrary” criterion in special exception cases.

Black said he strongly opposed allowing apartments in all C-2 by special exception, but he had no problem with mixed-use in any commercially zoned area.

Commissioner Ed Provost said he “reviewed the zoning ordinances the council passed over the past seven years and about two thirds were spot zoning… spot zoning to me is to change zoning to suit an individual’s needs that does not impact the community.”

Shalun said her planning team had strong reservations about spot rezoning. “The town is liable.”

Resident Will Foehring proposed a possible solution. “If you’re worried about your C-2 corridor, could you put a percentage on that in an ordinance saying…we will allow 25 percent for apartments or 50 percent for apartments?”

“That’s a very good idea,” said Russell. She also favored allowing mixed-use in C-2. “It’s called planning and looking into the future. We have to address the issue some way, some how.”

Shalun will research the percentage idea.

“Figure out some way to do it without changing 100 percent of C-2,” Black said. “Find us a way.”

The commission approved recommending an ordinance amendment allowing campgrounds in R-3 zoning as a “special exception.” Shalun said the commission recently approved rezoning a tract to R-3 to accommodate a resort community, and the developer “wanted a campground.” The current ordinance which allows RVs, but not campgrounds, was “inconsistent,” Shalun said. The proposed ordinance amendment will go to the council for a vote.

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