By MADELYN FAIRBANKS
Published June 27, 2012
Residents: East Monroe rezone bad idea
MONROE - City Council members were greeted by several familiar faces at last week’s council meeting when concerned residents returned to speak during a public hearing to once again repeat their opposition to a proposed land-use comprehensive plan amendment and commercial rezone of land in east Monroe.
Rivmont Drive resident Jeffrey Rogers acknowledged that his voice would probably do no good in changing the City Council’s decision, but spoke frankly anyway.
“I recognize my comments tonight aren’t going to dissuade the council on its path toward proceeding with the comprehensive plan amendment,” Rogers said. “It’s pretty clear that’s a path you’ve been on for some time.”
Several residents of Rivmont Drive have been adamant in their opposition to the city’s intention of rezoning the farmland beneath their property. The proposed rezone would change the property from limited open space to general commercial, making the land more valuable to a potential buyer by allowing it to be heavily built upon.
The 50 acres in question sits in a flood-prone and protected scenic gateway according to the city’s comprehensive plan and is primarily owned by Heritage Baptist Fellowship, which filed its latest rezone request under the moniker East Monroe Economic Development Group LLC.
Since rezoning the land as such would be against the comprehensive plan’s guidelines for the property, the city is changing the plan to meet the church’s needs.
Many residents simply don’t understand why the city is preparing to go ahead with a seemingly illogical action. Previously, the city has rejected the church’s attempts to change the zoning on the land.
“We’re befuddled as to the rationale for proceeding with this,” Rogers said.
Monroe resident Clive Eller had sharp words for the council: “In my mind, the only reason that could be (for going forward with the rezone and amendment) is speculative profit. You know in your hearts you shouldn’t do this, so listen to your hearts.”
City staff mentioned that although the planning commission, an advisory body to the council, gave no formal recommendation on this request, some members believe the council should wait to vote on the rezone until a challenge to the city’s phased environmental impact statement (EIS) has been resolved.
The city’s hearing examiner will hear the challenge to the EIS next month.
City attorney Zach Lell advised that there were no legal constraints on the council if it wanted to move forward without waiting for the hearing examiner’s decision. The only pertinent legal requirement is that all comprehensive plan amendments need to be made at the same time — so to delay one would be to delay them all.
Comprehensive plan amendments can be made only once a year. The council will take action on this year’s amendments at its July 10 council meeting.
Also on the list of amendments are land-use changes to FirstAir Field to open the airport up to non-aviation uses, as well as changes to the Downtown Master Plan and North Kelsey Development Plan.
During the public hearing on the amendments, all speakers addressed the church’s request known as East Monroe.
No one came forward to speak on the others.