Garner Cleveland Record

Garner planning board favors controversial rezoning

Following a lengthy discussion and more explanations from the applicants, the town’s planning board recommended that council members approve a rezoning request near the former ConAgra site.

The request by Barbara Mitchell and her neice Sondra Hamlin didn’t gain the planning board’s full approval though.

And a protest petition filed by neighboring property owners – who are also family members of Mitchell and Hamlin – means council members must have four votes in favor of the request in order to approve it, instead of a simple 3-2 majority.

The property consists of a tract of land slightly larger than four acres off Wilmington Road, which is off Jones Sausage Road south of the former ConAgra site.

Mitchell inherited the land from her parents and she is asking the town to rezone the land from an industrial zoning designation to a residential one. The land sits more or less in a transitional area. To the north, the former ConAgra site sits vacant and the town is trying to attract new businesses to the site. To the south sits Hunter’s Mark a residential development that was built in 1997.

Mitchell told the commission she wants to ensure that the property remains viable for future home sites for her family. She told the panel she has no plans to sell the land.

“I’m 77 years old,” Mitchell said. “And I’ve lived there all my life. I just want to make sure I can leave the land for my children and they they can build their homes there if they want to.”

Garner town planner Jeff Triezenberg said rezoning the property would continue a trend that began with the development of the Hunter’s Mark neighborhood, which has about 85 homes in it.

“The Hunter’s Mark rezoning kind of cast the die. You’ve set the expectations for that area,” Triezenberg said.

But Mitchell’s relatives, who own several other tracts of inherited land around hers, have said they didn’t want any more property rezoned. Industrially zoned land is generally worth more and the tax value of industrial property is also higher.

None of Mitchell’s relatives attended Monday night’s planning board meeting, but they had expressed concerns to Mitchell, Triezenberg and Planning Director Brad Bass that rezoning Mitchell’s land would result in a loss of value for their property.

City council first heard from all the parties involved in the matter last month and encouraged both sides of the family to work with town staff to reach a compromise.

But the two sides could not reach a mutual agreement, which led Bass to tell planning board members the decision was one of the more difficult the planning board would likely have to make.

During discussion, planning board chairperson Barbara Barat told Mitchell she was inclined to support her request. “I did not come here with that opinion, but some of the things you’ve told us here tonight have led me to see this differently,” Barat said.

Planning commission member Joshua Whitaker sounded a similar tone. “When that property was originally changed to I-2, I’m not sure they understood all that,” Whitaker said, echoing an point Mitchell made in her presentation.

Not all the planning commission members were convinced that rezoning the Mitchell property was the best thing to do. “I’d like to see all that property rezoned if we’re going to do this,” said Jeffery Swain. “I think there are compelling reasons to disapprove this.”

Moments later, he cast the lone vote against recommending the change to the council.

City council members will consider the matter at their March 2 meeting.