Monteagle Planning: Site Plan, Subdivision Plat Deadlines
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Jan. 17 Monteagle Planning Commission special called workshop, town planner Annya Shalun presented an overview of planning commission responsibilities and review processes to orient new commissioners, and to provide a framework for addressing difficult questions confronting the commission. Shalun also made recommendations for changing site plan and subdivision plat application-review deadlines.
“The goal of planning is to maximize the health, safety, and economic well-being for all residents,” Shalun stressed. The commission had jurisdiction over property inside the city limits, as well as property outside the city limits situated within the Urban Growth Boundary, Shalun explained. For property inside the city limits, the commission’s regulatory tools included site plans, zoning ordinances and the zoning map. “Monteagle deals with rezoning more than any other community I work with. It means you’re developing very quickly,” Shalun said. Outside the city limits, subdivision regulations were the commission’s only regulatory tool.
Commissioner Katie Trahan asked if the commission could require the Hideaway developers to improve Wrens Nest Avenue. “Yes,” Shalun said, “If you have a good case for the health, safety, and well-being of the citizens.” But Shalun went on to say, the commission could not deny the project to save sewer capacity for future developers. The commission could, however, approve or deny the developer’s request for a variance to address road visibility issues to avoid changing the “topography” of the land.
Shalun advised caution in granting variances, since when the commission granted a variance, they needed to consider granting variances for similar issues in the future. Variances for site plans that did not meet ordinance requirement could be granted for “narrowness, shallowness, shape” and other topographical features of a site, Shalun said, but variances could not be granted for financial hardship reasons. She gave the example of the restaurant-retail business that requested a landscaping variation to avoid decreasing the building size, a financial consideration. If the commission kept encountering the same type of variance request, they could consider recommending changes to the zoning ordinance governing the issue. Shalun advised the commission the restaurant-retail business would suggest a zoning ordinance change.
Taking up the deadline for submitting a site plan for review, Shalun recommended requiring the site plan be submitted 30 days before a meeting, instead of the current 14-day requirement, to allow her time to carefully address the site plan specification “checklist.” The commission discussed whether site plans not fully in compliance should even come before the commission. The change to the application submission deadline will require a zoning ordinance change, meaning the commission must recommend the change to the council, a public hearing must be held, and the council must approve the change on first and second reading.
Shalun also recommended requiring major subdivision plats be submitted for review 30 days before a meeting, instead of the current 7-day requirement, and to allow the commission 60 days to deliver a decision, instead of just 30 days. Commissioner Alec Moseley recommended the commission have 75 days to review the data so they would have two meetings to discuss it. The subdivision regulation timeline changes will require a public hearing announced 30 days in advance.
The commission will vote on the changes discussed at the Tuesday, Feb. 7 meeting. The commission will hold a special called meeting at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 15, to address the proposed Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUS) ordinance and where to allow self-storage units. Cooley’s Rift residents questioned stipulating ADUs not be allowed in front of the main residence, since most lots in Cooley’s Rift would not accommodate building an ADU behind or next to the main residence. Also undecided is whether ADUs will need to have a separate water meter. Where to allow self-storage units presents problems since C-2 and Industrial zoning allows self-storage units, but not C-3. Monteagle has no Industrial zoning and C-2 zoning occurs primarily in the downtown business corridor, not a desirable location for self-storage facilities.