Board rejects request to re-zone parcel for assisted-living facility

By Bill Short

Oakland resident Wayne Boyd addresses the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen Thursday night during its regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Board members defeated a proposed ordinance that would have re-zoned property for construction of an assisted-living facility. (Photo by Jim Larkin)

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously defeated a proposed ordinance last week that would have re-zoned property for construction of an assisted-living facility.

Board members took the action Thursday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman John Evans and seconded by Alderman Karl Chambless.

The motion also sends adjacent property currently zoned R-4, High-Density Residential – Assisted Living, back to the Oakland Planning Commission for either an R-1, Low-Density Residential, or R-2, Medium-Density Residential, designation and for removal of R-4 from the town’s Zoning Ordinance.

Mayor Scott Ferguson noted that, when a proposed ordinance is rejected on first reading, it is not brought back to the board for a second reading.

The ordinance would have amended the Oakland Municipal Zoning Map by re-zoning a 10.21-acre parcel on the east side of Wirt Road and north side of Riverdale Drive from R-1A, Low-Density Residential, 10,000 square feet, to R-4.

During discussion before the vote, Ferguson expressed opposition to the ordinance because of the Single-Family Residential zoning that currently exists, as well as the town’s Land-Use Map.

“We want to protect the rural character of our town and protect your property values,” he told the residents who attended the meeting. “That’s the overall goal of comprehensive planning and smart growth.”

In response to a question by Alderman Maggie Powers, City Planner Chris Pate said he last heard that Bancorp South owns the adjacent R-4 property “in conjunction with the Fairway Hills development.” Evans said the bank wants that parcel to be reviewed by the planning commission.

Pate said that area surrounds the two cellular telephone towers that are located west of Wirt Road and south of Riverdale Drive.

“There’s an R-1A zoning designation that’s a remnant immediately under the towers,” he noted. “And apparently, there are 63 surrounding acres that are currently available for R-4 zoning.”

If a developer submitted a request to the planning commission, Pate said, there would be “little recourse” to keep him from using those 63 acres for two-family or assisted-living facilities.

During the portion of the meeting designated for residents’ comments, Planning Commission Chairman Billy Ray Morris said he believes an assisted-living facility would decrease the values of the houses in that neighborhood.

John Bigham of 55 Black Ankle Drive in the Northwood Estates subdivision called an assisted-living facility in the proposed location a “bad idea,” because it would put a strain on the infrastructure and increase the traffic in the area.

“We have a Land-Use Map that was put together with consideration by reasonably intelligent people, and it needs to stand,” he said. “Changing the zoning just because someone bought land cheap is not a sufficient reason.”

Annie Champion of 540 Fair Oaks Drive noted that a “very nice” assisted-living facility with 32 units available is located only 12 minutes from her home. Although it has been open for a year, she said it has not yet achieved full occupancy.

“I can’t even imagine why anybody would think that, in a county the size of Fayette, we actually could fill another facility of this size,” she said. “The last thing that Oakland needs is another vacant building because some plan did not work out.”

James Wise of 40 Lewis Fairway said Oakland is funded by taxpayers, particularly, on property values. And anything that affects those values will affect the tax revenue that the town generates.

Noting that there are 43 assisted-living facilities within a 20-mile radius of Oakland, Wise said they have a 25-to-40-percent vacancy rate. If such a facility achieved full occupancy in Oakland, he said, it would create only about eight or nine “low-paying jobs” that would include nurses’ assistants, one chef and some “house-cleaning” employees.

Wise said he would suffer a 15-to-20-percent loss in his property value, and every home in the area around the facility would experience a $40,000 to $60,000 loss.

“For what?” he asked rhetorically. “One developer to go out there and create eight lousy jobs? How in the heck can we possibly have at least 500 homes around our neighborhood affected by this for one developer?”