Board postpones ordinance that would re-zone 61 acres

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously last week to postpone the final reading of an ordinance that would re-zone property from High- to Low-Density Residential.
Board members took the action during their Dec. 20 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Karl Chambless and seconded by Alderman Chris Goodman.
The proposed ordinance would amend the Oakland Municipal Zoning Map by re-zoning a 61.4-acre parcel on the east side of Wirt Road from R-4, High-Density Residential – Assisted Living, to R-1A, Low-Density Residential, 10,000 square feet. It would also amend the text of the Municipal Zoning Ordinance by repealing R-4 districts, along with planned developments and planned unit development provisions for those districts.
During a public hearing shortly before the vote, Doug Swink of Renaissance Development Co. addressed the board on behalf of Bancorp South, which owns the 61-acre parcel. He said the bank has asked him to work with it to see “what really can be done” with the property.’
“So, what we’re in the process of doing is a study to determine if a portion of the property can be used for independent living care,” he noted. “We’ve been marketing for the site, but not in any particular portion of the site.”
Swink said he is preparing a “master plan” for the entire 62 acres to bring back a portion of it that would be independent living in the form of “one structure,” and then some single-family dwellings. So, he conveyed the bank’s “respectful request” that the final reading of the ordinance be postponed.
“Give us the opportunity to come back after a study and say, ‘Here’s what would be proposed for the property,’” he said. “And then, lock that down into some type of a zoning master plan or a PD environment.”
In response to a question by Goodman, Swink said it will take 30 days to prepare the plan. Then, it will “probably” be another 30 before it can be submitted to the Oakland Planning Commission for review.
Shonah Sprouse of 15 Willow Birch Cove agreed that the final reading of the ordinance should be postponed for further review.
“What would this say to businesses and industries outside of Oakland who want to come and buy property that’s zoned?” she asked rhetorically. “And then, to know our aldermen can just say, ‘Oh, no. We’re going to downgrade this property.’ It sends the wrong message to the companies, businesses and industries we’d want to have come here.”
At its Sept. 20 meeting, the board unanimously defeated an ordinance that would have amended the Municipal Zoning Map by re-zoning a 10.2-acre parcel on the east side of Wirt Road and north side of Riverdale Drive from R-1A to R-4 for construction of an assisted-living facility.
Mayor Scott Ferguson had expressed opposition to that 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 Sept. 20 meeting. “That’s the overall goal of comprehensive planning and smart growth.”
City Planner Chris Pate said he had last heard that Bancorp South owns the adjacent R-4 property “in conjunction with the Fairway Hills development.” He 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.
At the Sept. 20 meeting, the board voted unanimously to send the adjacent property currently zoned R-4 back to the 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.