Westover plan passes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Despite three hours of complaints from the standing-room crowd of protestors, the Westover Planning Commission unanimously approved plat plans last Tuesday for a 800 home subdivision.

Builders will still have to follow several Shelby County Development Services&8217; recommendations. The SCDS mandates that a traffic study be completed to assess the impact on existing roads. Cars will travel in and out of the subdivision 7,500 times a day, according to a planning services report.

Developers must also address all comments from the commission before earning final plan approval. In addition, subdivision construction must also stay within Westover&8217;s planning guidelines.

However, the regulations did little to appease the 100 protestors who were against the subdivision altogether.

Almost 30 residents spoke at the public hearing, saying that developing the 200 rural acres between Shelby County Highways 55 and 51 is a mistake. The first phase will include 140 lots, ranging from 40 to 60 feet wide.

&8220;You ought to be ashamed,&8221; said Jo Fish, who contended that her property will border more than 30 lots. She described her once peaceful country backyard as a &8220;noisy, dusty pit.&8221;

Many other residents asked what the subdivision would do to their quality of life.

&8220;It&8217;ll be a shanty town,&8221; said Terry Hahn, whose property borders the subdivision. &8220;I&8217;m going to have to build burglar bars to protect my home.&8221;

Bill Sprattlin, the only resident to speak up in favor of the subdivision, addressed the remarks made about the &8220;kinds of people&8221; that would move into Westover Park.

&8220;I don&8217;t know where they get these ideas. We are not going to bail people out of jail and sell them homes.&8221; Houses will range in price from $150,000 to $180,000.

Residents also expressed concerned over what impact the population boom would have on traffic and local schools.

&8220;There are no places for these kids in our schools,&8221; said Sarah Alvarez Pfister, who owns land adjacent to Westover Park. Her husband, Roswell Pfister, labeled potential traffic woes as a &8220;nightmare in non-motion.&8221;

&8220;Thoughtless actions of elected officials will ruin Westover,&8221; he said. &8220;Don&8217;t even think about doing this to us.&8221;

Water supply was another worry of residents.

&8220;We have too much growth. Our water supply is already to overwhelmed,&8221; said Denise Howard, a Westover resident. &8220;I opposed this a year ago, and I oppose it today.&8221;

One idea that Mayor Mark McLaughlin supported and most residents agreed on was adding a buffer between home lots and adjacent properties.

McLaughlin repeatedly asked about replacing the proposed fence property line with a buffer of trees.

Lawyers for the developers countered, saying Westover Park homeowners deserve full use of their property.

&8220;The people that buy this property want to use it,&8221; said Jesse Evans, a lawyer representing Westover Development. He said that a buffer wouldn&8217;t be maintained and would &8220;turn into a no-mans land…a full-of-weeds eyesore.&8221; Evans argued that changing the buffers would offset months of work.

He said that the property is already zoned for a residential neighborhood like Westover Park and that developers should be given permission to proceed with construction as planned.

&8220;Follow your zoning ordinances. You are bound by your ordinances,&8221; said Evans.

Shelby County Planner Tom Wilkins agreed that subdivision plans are within the zoning requirements of Westover&8217;s comprehensive plan.

The Planning Commission concurred with the county and passed plat approval, which drew jeers and boos from the public.

&8220;It is simply that once a commission drafts ordinances and regulations on a subdivision, we are bound by those regulations,&8221; said Chairman Michael Sampsell.

However, Samsell says that tree buffers or other Westover requests may not be out of the picture yet. &8220;We&8217;ll handle it on a case-by-case basis,&8221; he said. &8220;Those guys [the developers] have to come before us again for other phase approvals. They wouldn&8217;t want to aggravate us too badly.&8221;