Planning commission denies subdivision

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Some residents of Shelby County’s Beat 14 are celebrating a victory in their battle to &uot;protect the interest of property owners&uot; while the legality of county zoning hangs in the balance.

The Shelby County Planning Commission Monday night rejected a developer’s plans to put a subdivision along County Highway 41 just north of U.S. Highway 280, inside Beat 14.

Developer Carter Kennedy requested approval of a master plan for a second phase of the Villas Belvedere subdivision, a development with 110 residential lots on 30 acres of land between Mt. Laurel and Shoal Creek.

The planning commission voted unanimously to deny Kennedy’s request, who was speaking on behalf of property owner A. Frazier Christy of Hudson Properties.

&uot;I think it’s fantastic. The planning commission did the right thing by denying this master plan,&uot; said Nancy Campbell of Shoal Creek, who recently organized a petition to call for a zoning vote in her Beat 14, an unincorporated area of Shelby County.

According to current law, areas of Shelby County that do not fall inside city limits are not subject to county planning or zoning ordinances unless the residents in a particular beat vote for zoning.

Although Campbell’s petition raised the required amount of signatures and was approved by Shelby County Probate Judge Patricia Fuhrmeister, an election was never held because of a lawsuit claiming the process violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The suit, filed on behalf of three property owners in Beat 14 who opposed zoning, claimed the Shelby County Election Canvassing Board violated the federal act by not obtaining pre-clearance for an election from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The current legislation requires a special election for zoning in a beat to be held no longer than 45 days after the petition is verified, but pre-clearance takes at least 60 days.

The discrepancy between the two must be settled in court or by the State Legislature.

&uot;It’s a shame there is such a delay in bringing county-wide zoning to Shelby County,&uot; Campbell said.

Around 20 people attended the meeting to oppose the master plan for Villas Belvedere II in a meeting that lasted until near midnight.

The proposed extension of Villas Belvedere included 109 residential lots on 29.6 acres immediately south of the original development.

The request originally came before the planning commission in November 2002 and again in April 2003. It was denied both times.

&uot;I think we’ve done everything you want us to do,&uot; Kennedy said in his final plea to the commission. &uot;It’s an unzoned area and in my opinion we meet the subdivision regulations.&uot;

But the commission voted to deny the plan based on a motion by chairman Len Ward.

Ward suggested the plan posed a safety issue because there are not areas inside the subdivision where a school bus could turn around. He also said the density was not compatible with the surrounding properties.

A final point of contention was added by commissioner Ralph Thomas citing concern for safety with the resulting traffic increase on Highway 41.

Shoal Creek resident and attorney James Nolan said the idea of a Villas Belvedere II just didn’t fit.

&uot;It’s a matter of trying to put a square peg in a round hole,&uot; Nolan said.

Nolan said he and other residents would continue to fight to protect the interests of property owners in Beat 14.

He announced that he filed a motion last week for intervention in the pending case that has stalled Beat 14’s zoning vote.

Campbell, too, said she would remain active in her pursuits.

&uot;We are going to continue to work with the county planning department on their comprehensive plan,&uot; Campbell said. &uot;We are going to fight to support them.&uot;