Access into rezone area a concern among neighbors
MONROE - The planning commission took an initial vote to approve a city-initiated rezone near the Foothills neighborhood last week that will allow developers to build a higher number of single family homes per acre.
The commission took two votes at its March 11 public hearing on the rezone proposal.
One attaches a condition onto the rezone that requires additional local access into the area to improve traffic flow and safety. That motion passed 4 to 2. The second vote approves the rezone without the condition. That motion passed 5 to 1.
City attorney Zach Lell is checking to see if the planning commission has the authority to attach such a condition.
The planning commission is scheduled to vote on a final recommendation March 25. The recommendation will be forwarded to the City Council, which has ultimate say on the rezone.
About 10 residents in the Foothills neighborhood attended the March 11 public hearing. Two testified at the hearing. The rezone is unpopular with residents, and the Foothills Homeowners Association has been active in protesting the rezone because of traffic and public safety concerns.
The 71-acre rezone area currently allows 2 to 5 housing units per acre. The rezone proposal increases the density to 5 to 7 housing units per acre. The city wants the higher density to meet housing needs based on future population targets.
The rezone request aligns the land use designation for the area spelled out in the city’s comprehensive plan.
The rezone area is located off U.S. 2 at Roosevelt Road in the northwest edge of town.
A developer has submitted plans to build 73 single family homes as a planned residential development at the end of Bear Mountain Road SE on about 20 acres. The Bear Mountain subdivision proposal is next to the existing 210-home Foothills neighborhood.
City documents say the rezone alone “will not generate traffic and has no direct effect on the need for road or street improvements.” The same document goes on to say that the intersection of U.S. 2 and Roosevelt Road leading into the subdivision would fall below acceptable levels of service standards without improvements.
Residents say the increased density will make the area less safe for children both during construction of the subdivision and when it’s complete and more vehicles are passing through.
“We have 11 grandchildren that are with us a lot,” resident Denny Coates wrote in an e-mail to the city. “It would create for us a burden of traffic flow and public safety. Most of these homes house families with children from ages 1 to 17. For the safety of these families, it is vital that traffic flow is kept to a minimum. To let large trucks use the Foothills as an access road would jeopardize the community and all of its families and children.”
There is currently one local access street into the neighborhood. City documents say future development of the area will require additional local access streets, but that would be addressed during the project permitting phase later in the process.
While the city doesn’t share residents’ safety concerns, some commissioners have concerns with the rezone.
“I do have a problem with increasing the density of this area,” planning commissioner Wayne Rodland said. “There is no fire station near there and if you start putting houses close together without a fire station in the area, we’re rooting for trouble. I have a real problem with that.”
The city doesn’t have any concerns because it is narrowly looking at the impact of simply changing the area’s zoning even though it is well known a developer is interested in building there.
“Secondary (traffic) access is not considered in this proposed rezoning as this action will not generate traffic and has no direct effect on the need for road or street improvements,” city documents say.
While the city is saying the rezone isn’t connected to any specific project or plan, there is a proposal to subdivide the area, Foothills spokesman Geoffrey Thomas said.
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