By John Schaffner
Eric Ranney, the orderly and mild-mannered chairman of Neighborhood Planning Unit C, had to raise his voice more than once at the Dec. 2 meeting to retain order during a discussion of a rezoning application.
The application asks to rezone 15 properties on Moores Mill Road and Nawench Drive in a move to prevent the neighborhood of large lots from being chopped up into multi-house tracts.
The application, which eventually passed the NPU by a vote of 23-4, was explained by Ranney as a community initiative that Dist. 8 City Council member Clair Muller supported as the applicant. It would re-categorize the properties from R3 to R-2B.
The R3 zoning has a minimum lot size of 18,000 square feet and requires a minimum 150-foot frontage. The R-2B zoning requires a minimum 28,000-square-foot lot size for a single home. All of the properties involved in the rezoning were developed long ago and are larger than the 18,000 square feet and closer to the minimum requirement for R-2B.
Proponents view the R-2B zoning as a means to strike a balance between developers and neighborhoods. It was first adopted as a new zoning category in 2005 and was put into use with the rezoning of existing properties on both sides of Howell Mill Road from Moores Mill Road to Nawench Drive at that time.
The rezoning of these 15 properties, would extend the R-2B zoning from Howell Mill Road all the way to I-75 (including the YWCA property) from the south side of Moores Mill Road to the south side of Nawench Drive.
The reason behind the rezoning of those properties years ago and the rezoning request that was before NPU-C on Dec. 2 is the same: the neighborhood has, according to resident Richard Eydt, “been under siege by developers wanting to subdivide the [larger] lots. ” Eydt, who lives at 1055 Narwench, said the developers try to put together two or more of the larger lots, with the plan of putting in a cul de sac road with maybe 10 homes on the subdivided land.
In the process, Eydt claims, developers would generally clear-cut the heavily wooded land, which he says would destroy the character of the neighborhood. He said he bought his home in the neighborhood because of “all the lovely trees. I didn’t by my house and say someday I am going to divide my property into multiple lots.”
Eydt said the present R3 zoning in the neighborhood allows developers “to buy several lots, put them together and then cut them up for a subdivision. They can make quick bucks and leave town. And we are left holding the bag with lower property values, an overtaxed sewer system, erosion problems and overcrowded schools.”
Jane Davis, whose family has owned property adjacent to the YWCA, and once included the YWCA property, spoke against the rezoning, primarily because “this has been zoned R3 forever, for as long as I can remember. I was shocked to find out that someone wanted to change the zoning,” she told the group.
Another woman sitting with Davis said there are 13 people who own property there who are opposed to the rezoning, but never identified who they were or exactly where their property was in relation to those on the rezoning application.
At one point, Davis kept interrupting the several speakers in support of the rezoning, including Eydt, and Ranney, who became visibly irritated that the meeting was getting out of hand, limited the discussion leading up to the recommendation by the executive committee for approval of the application and the final vote.