Monteagle Planning Tackles Long-Term Impact Decisions

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the May 7 meeting the Monteagle Planning Commission revisited a February request to allow a campground on property zoned commercial C-3 and a new request to rezone C-3 property to commercial C-2 or to change approved uses in C-3 to allow a Dollar General Store to locate there. All three requests were denied but prompted long discussion and the decision to hold a two-hour workshop July 2 to weigh zoning questions.

Monteagle only allows campgrounds in C-2 zoning and in residential R-3 zoning as a “special exception” decision which falls to the Board of Zoning Appeals, explained town planner Jonathan Rush. The commission deferred a decision on the February request for a campground in C-3 zoning pending insight from the American Institute of Architect (AIA) planners scheduled to visit in late April. “They seemed more focused on downtown and the business district,” said Commissioner Katie Trahan who spoke with the planners. Rush recommended if the commission decided to allow campgrounds in C-3 it be as a “special exception.” Rush also proposed, since the town was engaged in land use planning, campgrounds be by “special exception” regardless of the zone. Vice Chair Richard Black said once the BZA approved a “special exception,” the tendency was to allow all future “special exception” requests. Commissioner Alec Mosley referenced an ordinance stating approval by the BZA “upon determining conditions or requirements for the special exception had been met.” Mosley recommended defining those conditions for campground special exceptions. Trahan said the conditions should take into account nearby neighborhoods density and size. Rush will work on identifying the conditions and an amendment making campgrounds a “special exception” in C-2 for commissioners’ review at the June meeting.

Providing background on the Dollar General proposed for the corner of Dixie Lee Highway and Sampley Street, Rush said “retail commercial” was only allowed in C-1 and C-2 and the property was zoned C-3. Susannah Rote, representative for the developer Turner Realty, asked why the Dollar General did not qualify as a convenience store, pointing out convenience stores were allowed in C-3. “Convenience stores are typically associated with gas stations or truck stops,” Rush said. Not allowing a Dollar General at that location “doesn’t wash,” objected Commissioner Dan Sargent. “This was commercial property all my life.” Rush explained C-3 zoning was intended for businesses drawing interstate traffic. Mosley said, although the original town plan had been lost, the C-3 zoning “likely reflects” the original plan. Monteagle Alderman Nate Wilson said the AIA planners envisioned the location as part of the “civic zone,” perhaps a park, adjacent to the city hall, library, and community center. Wilson acknowledged, though, city hall was zoned C-3. To avoid spot zoning, the commission would need to rezone the entire area to C-2, not just the parcel in question, Rush said. “Rezoning to C-2 might be more palatable with the local residents in that area, but it would take a whole lot more conversation and involvement with what we got from the AIA people,” Black insisted.

The commission voted unanimously not to rezone the tract. Sargent voted against not allowing retail of the Dollar General variety in C-3. Mayor Greg Maloof abstained from the vote. The commission agreed about the need for a workshop. Rush pointed out some municipalities distinguished between small mom-and-pop retail and big-box retail in zoning rules. “We need to determine if there is another use for the property the city has in mind,” Black said. The commission will have the full land use proposal from the AIA planners by the July 2 workshop. “In their presentation the AIA gave us some broad-brush ideas,” Wilson said. “The proposal will give us more detail, but it’s going to be up to us to think about what we want where and have our zoning map reflect that.”

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