Westover approves zoning plan

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Despite last minute concerns expressed by the Shelby County Department of Developmental Services, the town council of Westover with all members present recently approved its first zoning ordinance.

The council took the unanimous action following a public hearing during which James Ponseti, Shelby County senior planner for long-range planning, raised red flags in the town’s ordinance with regard to the county and town’s comprehensive plans.

The concerns were also expressed in a letter to Westover Mayor Mark McLaughlin from Shelby County Planning Services Supervisor Todd McDonald.

That letter was dated Dec. 21

the day the Town Council had scheduled a public hearing and vote on the zoning ordinance. The ordinance had been introduced at the council’s previous regular meeting.

Ponseti told the council that the county had gotten &uot;caught up in getting our plan adopted and y’all came along quite quickly.&uot;

Riggins responded, &uot;We are at the point where we need to make something happen.&uot;

And Ponseti agreed, &uot;Yes, we should have pointed this out sooner.&uot;

McDonald wrote that a great opportunity existed for the town of Westover to be the &uot;bellwether&uot; for advancing concepts embraced by both the county and town’s comprehensive plans.

According to the letter, McDonald said, &uot;I am concerned that by designating the Highway Commercial (HC) and the Employment Center Office (EC-O) zoning districts on property in the Highway 280 corridor, you will be undermining your vision of Westover as having vibrant, livable town and neighborhood centers.

&uot;Furthermore, by designating these districts now, the Town is vesting those properties with development rights. This action will be difficult to correct; to downzone later would likely require the town to compensate those property owners.

&uot;Therefore, at this time, I ask that you table and/or remand this item back to the Planning Commission to allow for additional consideration of these issues.&uot;

Councilmember Ed Bahr said he was for &uot;moving on&uot; with the ordinance.

He said no matter how well things were planned, there would be issues to work on.

McLaughlin pointed out some changes that had already been made in the zoning ordinance in the Rural Residential District, Agriculture Preserve District, Neighborhood Residential District, and Transition District.

He said in the unsewered column, height was changed from one story to two stories with overall height increased up to 45 feet in all.

In the Residential District unsewered column, the footprint of a building was increased from 3,000 to 3,500 square feet.

On a motion by Councilmember Jeanne Champion-Fisch and a second from Councilmember Larry Riggins, the council voted unanimously to accept the new zoning ordinance as a base guideline and to authorize the town’s Planning Commission to investigate the use of overlays to address concerns in the ordinance.

Champion-Fisch pointed out that the ordinance provides that the strongest regulations will apply.

McLaughlin said an attorney reviewed the town’s zoning ordinance and had some similar concerns. But the attorney indicated that the town had a good ordinance and could come back and address issues with overlays.

Following the meeting, Ponseti said he was familiar with the attorney’s work and that he might be able to show mechanisms to address the county’s concerns.

Ponseti said the attorney is aware of what the county is trying to do.

In other matters the council voted to:

* Ask the mayor and town clerk to research increasing the town’s sales tax to 3 percent and to come back with a recommendation by Jan. 18.

* Ask the mayor and clerk to research applying the sales tax to the town’s police jurisdiction with a recommendation by Jan. 18.

* Ask the Subdivisions and Zoning Committee to develop a candidate list for members to the Board of Zoning Adjustments.

*Ask the Subdivisions and Zoning Committee and Annexation and Development Committee to organize and implement video taping the town for reference with a March 15 deadline.

*Ask the Education and Public Relations Committee to research forming an Education Foundation for informational purposes.

*Ask the Public Safety Committee to research and recommend a course of action regarding a neighborhood watch program by March 15.

*Ask the Annexation and Development Committee to make a recommendation on strategies encouraging economic development.

*Approved a payment of $115.16 and half the amount up front for business cards for the council.

*Table a Public Works Committee description of buildings to be classified as surplus property until the next meeting.

*At the request of Planning Commission Chairman Michael Sampsel, the Planning Commission will review the Highway 280 overlay at a Jan. 11, 6 p.m. workshop