Pacific Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commissioners say the city should take advantage of the current interest in developing subdivisions in the city to increase rooftops, which they say is what drives retail development — the city’s greatest need.
“There is a shortage of lots in Pacific,” said Commissioner Jim Smith. “There is no place to build. We need development.”
Those comments were made during the Feb. 13 P&Z meeting when developer Roger Gullet asked for a zone change from R1E, 20,000-square-foot lots, to R1C, 12,000-square-foot lots, on an 18-acre tract off Indian Trail where he wants to build Pacific Heights, a 143-lot subdivision.
The property is located west of Riverbend School, south of Silver Lakes subdivision and north of Indian Trails Road at the city’s southern edge.
The tract of land has been the subject of disagreement between neighboring property owners and developers for 17 years. It has come before P&Z seven times and has been in both Franklin County Circuit Court and the federal court.
Neighboring property owner opposition to each plan has been the number of homes the developer wants to build on the site. Neighbors want lot sizes that are compatible with their neighborhood.
“This is a question of preservation of neighborhood character,” said Jim Mueller, whose property abuts the subdivision site.
“This is an established neighborhood, not new for annexation,” he said. “We oppose the zone change. This is an R1E neighborhood.”
Smith said the residents and developer need to find a way to accommodate each other so the subdivision can be built.
“There has to be a way to work this out,” he said. “I want to see this property developed.”
The major stumbling block to previous plans was the lack of public access to the site.
Paul Boyer, project engineer, who spoke for the developer, said Gullet now plans to acquire property to create a public road into the tract if the zone change is approved.
“Then everything would be ready to go,” Smith said.
Density Is Issue
Neighbors’ opposition to the current plan, like opposition in the past, centers on density.
The developer says he needs a certain number of homes to make the subdivision economically viable. The neighbors say 143 homes is too many on that tract for their large-lot neighborhood.
City Administrator Steve Roth, who acts as the city’s zoning officer, said he recommends approval of the zone change. He said although he’s not familiar with all of the history, the comprehensive plan states that marketplace demands should be given consideration.
Residents Palmore Lawson, Bob Myers and Mueller, adjoining property owners, opposed the zone change.
Myers said residents gave up land in exchange for water and a road on the promise from the city that the area would remain R1E.
Lawson and Myers purchased the tract that could accommodate a public road into the proposed subdivision, but are unwilling to sell a portion to the developer if the density changes the character of their neighborhood.
Myers said he had originally intended to build a home on the property, but was stalled by bad health. He said he and other neighbors love their residential neighborhood and want to see homes built.
“We welcome new homes, if it is done right,” Myers said.
Access to Site
Boyer said the developer might be able to purchase land from Pacific Assembly of God Church on Highway N to provide access to the site, but did not want to buy property without the zone change.
“He doesn’t want to end up with more land that he can’t develop,” Boyer said.
Smith said he did not want to vote on the zone change application until access into the site was identified.
Attorney Carl Lumley said the developer has an opportunity to get a ruling from the court over what is right for access to the site. He said another option would be for the city to waive the public street regulation.
“Our opinions won’t make a difference,” Lumley said. “We would want assurances it is publicly accessible and would not cost city money on inverse condemnation.”
Linda Bruns, P&Z chair, said she would like to see the 143-lot plan amended to remove a couple of the lots to accommodate more green space.
Commissioner Jerry Eversmeyer agreed, saying fewer lots with more green space, especially at the border of the subdivision, would improve the plan.
On a motion by Alderman Nick Chlebowski, the board voted to table discussion on the subdivision until the Feb. 27 meeting.