Council repeals Heritage rezone but opens door for 2013
MONROE - Has the city found a backdoor way to slip through Heritage Baptist Fellowship’s rezone?
The City Council last week repealed the controversial ordinance that granted the church’s request to rezone 50 acres of land from limited open space to general commercial.
In a separate vote, the council will decide on 2013 comprehensive plan amendment proposals. One proposal includes a “city gateway districts” concept, which identifies the church’s land as the site for a potential “east gateway.”
The gateway districts proposal would analyze existing land conditions and plans for improving these areas and would consider establishing gateway overlay zoning that could lead to new zoning regulations within the gateway districts.
Public works director Brad Feilberg said the gateway proposal isn’t a rezone, and he didn’t know if it would lead to an eventual rezone of land within the gateway districts.
“It depends on what the gateway districts come out with,” Feilberg said.
He said that because Heritage is the primary land owner within the “east gateway” district, he assumes the church would still be involved in some way should “something to do with the property” come up.
The City Council will vote on the 2013 comprehensive plan amendment schedule at its Tuesday, Sept. 18 meeting.
The Heritage rezone ordinance was based on a flawed environmental impact study that the city’s hearing examiner found was “inadequate as a matter of law.”
Following the hearing examiner’s ruling, Monroe resident Lowell Anderson asked the City Council to rescind the ordinance. The city ignored his request for weeks until last week when an ordinance to repeal the rezone showed up on the City Council’s agenda for Sept. 4.
Anderson appealed the city’s environmental study in July.
Hearing examiner John Galt flatly rejected the church’s and city’s assertion that the rezone proposal “in and of itself does not have any environmental impacts.”
Within weeks of Galt’s ruling, the City Council terminated his contract with the city.
The church has been trying for years to change the zoning on its land. Each time the city has rejected the request because of significant environmental and traffic constraints.
Anderson, along with other concerned residents, worry the repeal ordinance is just the beginning of yet another attempt to give Heritage the rezone that it has been trying to push through council since 2004.
To outside stakeholders, residents and until recently Monroe’s own planning staff, nothing about the church’s rezone suggests it has ever been a good idea for Monroe.
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