Monteagle Increases Residential Minimum-Square-Foot Requirement

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Sept. 5 meeting, the Monteagle Planning Commission revisited the August discussion on minimum residence size and voted to recommend the council set the minimum for new construction at 800 square feet in all residential zones, no longer allowing 600 square-foot dwellings in R-2 and R-3. The council also revisited closing College Street but postponed a decision.

“R-1 is too low at 800 square feet,” said Commissioner Richard Black weighing in on the residence size discussion. “I initially felt 800 was too small,” Commissioner Katie Trahan said. Trahan maintained she reconsidered her original position, citing the importance of developers “working with the character of our community.” Commission Chair Ed Provost pointed to the need for “affordable housing,” noting the current $200 per square-foot construction cost. “Square footage drives the price up,” Provost said. The proposed amendment will go to the Monteagle Council for first and second reading approval. If adopted, the rule will preclude construction of tiny homes in Monteagle. Town planner Chad Reese said the International Building Code defined tiny homes as under 400 square feet. Monteagle only allows “tiny homes” in R-4 zoning, but Monteagle has no property zoned R-4 and has no current rule on tiny-home size.

Revisiting the discussion on closing West College Street to allow three property owners to reconfigure property lines and swap property, giving all three property owners road frontage for commercial development on Main Street, Reese said entrance to Main Street posed a possible problem. The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) preferred the three property owners share a “joint” entrance, according to Reese, but TDOT would consider separate entrances. The location of water and sewer utilities posed another possible hurdle. Mayor Greg Maloof said the water line ran beneath College Street, and he would investigate to determine if a sewer line easement also existed. One property, a 50 foot wide strip of former railroad property, posed another possible complication, Alderman Nate Wilson said. The utilities easement on former railroad property stipulated if the water and sewer lines needed to be relocated for commercial development, the city would bear the cost. Wilson recommended Monteagle ask the owner “to release the town from the obligation.”

The commission also revisited allowing campgrounds on C-3 commercial property as a “special exception.” Currently only C-2 and R-4 zoning allows campgrounds, with campgrounds on R-3 property only as a special exception. Black observed allowing a use as a special exception ruled on by the Board of Zoning Appeals was the same as blanket approval. “If the BZA approves one, how do they not approve the next one?” Black asked. Reese said property owner Randy Hill, who wanted to open a campground, would request rezoning his C-3 property to C-2 if the “special exception” use amendment was not adopted. Trahan objected to making any zoning changes with the town undergoing a master planning process. Commissioners Black and Alec Mosley concurred. Wilson pointed out the planning process would take several months, and the planning team would not solicit community input until after the first of the year. “For the past few years, we’ve been making zoning change after zoning change,” Trahan said. “I don’t have a problem putting [consideration of the zoning change] on hold for five months. It’s more important to understand what the citizens of Monteagle want before making changes.” Applause followed. Property owner Hill said his project called for RV hookups and possible tree houses. “I understand putting it off,” Hill said.

Resident Billy Best brought to the commission’s attention that the council eliminated the “five-findings” rule illegally, since no public hearing was held. The rule governed decisions on rezoning. Best argued the “findings” rule could help the commission make zoning decisions and suggested the rule be reinstated. Best also alerted the commission to semi-trucks illegally parking overnight in closed business lots to avoid paying for parking. The trucks blocked interstate entrance ramp visibility, Best said. Fining the offenders could bring in revenue.

Going forward, the planning commission will meet at 5 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month rather than 6 p.m.

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