East Monroe rezone plan again under debate
MONROE - The City Council’s rezone of farmland in east Monroe is being challenged in a petition to the state Growth Management Hearings Board on allegations the council vetted the rezone with unsound science.
The petitioners who live along the bluff above the property want the rezone decision overturned and considered invalid. They question in the petition if the environmental analysis the city based its rezone decision on legally met standards.
The land in question is the long-debated and politicized 43-acre piece of farmland just off U.S. 2 in east Monroe mostly owned by Heritage Baptist Fellowship Church.
In two petitions filed in late February, the petitioners have 12 bulletpoints stating the rezone shouldn’t have been approved. They say the rezone was “clearly erroneous,” and they want the state board to determine the council’s actions as invalid because of “substantial interference” with the state Growth Management Act.
The City Council quickly voted in the rezone the day after Christmas in a 5-0 vote that lacked dissenting council members Patsy Cudaback and Jason Gamble.
The quickly arranged vote came shortly after the city hearing examiner hired by outgoing Mayor Robert Zimmerman approved the rezone.
A prior hearing examiner was fired after he didn’t decide in favor of the project, and the project was regularly voted down by the council until a majority of council friendly to Heritage Baptist Fellowship’s project were elected with notable help from a stronghold base of local Baptist churchgoers.
The two sets of petitioners – Lowell Anderson and the Blair Family – are property owners whose land is adjacent to the U.S. 2 land. Anderson is a longtime fighter against the controversial land rezone.
The marshy farmland property was currently zoned limited open space and is prone to flooding. Only 15 acres are suitable for building, according to the church’s environmental study.
Documents show the property also has serious environmental, traffic and infrastructure issues.
A large segment of the community as well as the state Department of Ecology are on record as opposed to the rezone.
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