City of Union -- stock

Plans for a senior citizen development in Union were shot down by the board of aldermen.

By a unanimous 7-0 vote, aldermen voted against an ordinance that would have paved the way for a planned unit development (PUD) for Magnolia Estates. The property is located northwest of West Springfield Avenue, west of Grand Central Drive and south of Rock Island Drive.

Alderman Karen Erwin was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

The vote came after a number of Union residents spoke out against the plan during a public hearing.

The board chambers were packed for the meeting leaving no chair unfilled. All the speakers during the public hearing opposed the PUD.

Developer’s Plans

The only support came from the projects developer, Angela Beckett.

Beckett was seeking the PUD to build a 28-lot subdivision in the R-3 zoning district. She requested the PUD in order to build smaller houses and wanted smaller lots.

Under the PUD, Beckett would be allowed to reduce the side yard setbacks and the lot width. The proposed homes would be between 400 and 650 square feet, she said.

Beckett was questioned by the board and concerned neighbors about why she wanted to build such small homes. She said it was to fill a need.

A licensed appraiser, Beckett said she feels the Union area is lacking homes for under $100,000. The development would fill that need, but with a catch.

After the success of Gray Hawk, a community for people 55 and older located near the intersection of Old Highway 50 and Highway 50, Beckett said she wanted to try something similar.

The big difference between the two communities is Gray Hawk is considered attached housing while Magnolia Estates would have been detached.

Otherwise, Beckett said the idea was the same that the new development would be for people 55 and older. The homes would be considered single-family homes and would be sold.

At the June planning and zoning meeting, the commission expressed concern about how that would be enforced. If a home is sold, restricting who can buy it is hard to enforce.

Beckett said she envisioned a strong homeowners association (HOA). However, the city wouldn’t be able to enforce the HOA rules so they could at some point be changed.

Opposition

Neighbors expressed a number of concerns. One had to do with parking.

With the small lots and small setbacks, some neighbors wondered where everyone was going to park.

Beckett said there would be driveways on the property, but Alderman Bob Schmuke was skeptical of the plan.

Others opposed the size of the homes. Ben Fox said the city needs to move forward with “substantial housing.”

Neighbor Walter Murray said the development would hurt Union’s perception.

“Smaller houses are not what Union needs as an image builder,” he said.

In total, six neighbors spokes out against the plan. Other issues raised included stormwater runoff, emergency access and the potential for trespassing on neighboring properties.

The emergency access issue was raised because the plans showed just one entrance/exit. At the planning and zoning meeting, Beckett said it wasn’t possible to get a second entrance.

On Monday night she pointed out there are other developments in town with just one entrance. She specifically cited St. Andrews as a subdivision with one access point.

Alderman David Pope responded to Beckett by saying the board didn’t like St. Andrew’s single access. Mayor Mike Livengood said the city is still hopeful a second access point would be added during future development.

Aldermen Respond

Board members also were critical of the project. Pope said the comparison to Gray Hawk didn’t really work because that development is more isolated while this one would be in the middle of existing neighborhoods.

Alderman Paul Arand said he didn’t think this type of development fits in the area. He said it seems more suited to a different zoning district.

“I’m all for development, but it’s going be hard to approve something like this as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

In the end, no aldermen spoke up in favor of the plan and all voted to deny the PUD.