Hearing examiner stands by decision
MONROE - The city’s hearing examiner denied a request to reconsider his decision that found the city’s environmental study for Heritage Baptist Fellowship’s controversial rezone request was “inadequate as a matter of law.”
The city and the church, using the moniker East Monroe Economic Development Group, both asked for a reconsideration of the July 24 decision.
The city’s request addressed technical aspects of the decision, which, in part, hearing examiner John Galt accepted. The city’s request, though, wasn’t enough to overturn the decision.
The church’s request, on the other hand, asked for Galt to either reverse or modify the decision to find the study “appropriate” and “legally sufficient” if the city requires any future development to address specific environmental impacts and have the future landowner sign a development agreement.
Galt rejected the church’s request.
“(The church’s request) basically asks the Examiner to change the project about which the (study) was written. The Examiner lacks authority to determine the scope or nature of the proposal for which a (study) is prepared,” Galt wrote.
Resident Lowell Anderson appealed the city’s environmental study of the church’s proposed rezone of 50 acres located on the eastern edge of the city just off U.S. 2. The church wants to change the land use to general commercial from limited open space.
The City Council voted 4-2 to approve the rezone request, and the environmental study is supposed to be a substantial aspect of the decision-making process.
The phased environmental study “defers all environmental analysis to the future rather than addressing the ‘big picture’ before the decision to change the land use designation and zoning is made,” Galt wrote, which discredited one of the city’s major talking points in defense of the study.
Following the favorable hearing examiner decision, Anderson asked the City Council to rescind its vote to approve the rezone.