Rezone gets OK despite crowd
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Sep 27, 2012 | 1304 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cleveland Municipal Planning Commission members voted against the wishes of residents who said “enough is enough” to multifamily development in their neighborhood.

Neighbors near 250 Ramsey St. N.E. filled the Cleveland City Council meeting room Tuesday evening to express opposition to a request to rezone property from R-1 (Single-Family Residential) to R-3 (multifamily Residential). The property is approximately 200-by-200 square feet.

The nine commissioners split 5-4 to recommend approval after about two hours of discussion and public comments from neighbors who complained of inadequate sewage service, speeding cars on narrow streets, crime, drugs and gang activity in other multifamily complexes. Ramsey Street intersects Pryor Road about two blocks from Northcrest apartments, a frequent topic of discussion at City Council meetings.

Neighbors presented essentially the same arguments Tuesday evening that many of the same people presented in October 2007 when the Planning Commission denied a similar request to rezone 1.41 acres at 610 Hiwassee Avenue N.E.

Commissioner Maryl Elliott sided with the public five years ago and made the motion to deny that request. She sided with neighbors again on Tuesday and made the motion to deny the latest request. Commissioner Andrew Johnson seconded the motion, which failed 4-5. A second motion placed on the floor by Tricia Haws, and seconded by Yvonne Cannon, passed 5-4.

Commissioners Larry Presswood, Stan Lawson, Tim Henderson, Haws and Cannon voted in favor of the request. Commissioner Dee Burris and City Councilman David May, Elliott and Johnson voted against the request.

The Cleveland City Council will make the final decision. The Council will hear the first reading on Oct. 22. The second and final reading would follow on Nov. 12.

Senior Planner Paul Corder recommended approval of rezoning the property because it is adjacent to a long line of R-3 properties to the west and CH (Commercial Highway) properties to the east. According to the staff report, R-3 is a more appropriate zoning district next to CH than is R-1.

Dustin Hawkins, of D&S Custom Homes, requested the rezoning change in order to build 14 luxury townhomes. Seven of the units would face Sharon Drive N.E. and seven would face Ramsey Street.

The 1,350-square-foot units would have amenities such as granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood flooring inside and a craftsman-style look on the outside similar to Spring Creek. Each unit would have an individual driveway. The townhomes would be priced at about $130,000 each.

“I want to stress these are owner occupied. They are not rental property,” Hawkins said. “The people will own the property, the dirt, everything. The only difference between this and a single-family home is these are connected together.”

Hawkins said he plans to retain as many mature trees as possible and build a buffer comparable to the privacy fence and landscaping at Garden Plaza along Henderson Avenue.

He said 10 other properties on Ramsey Street are zoned R-3.

“The last one (rezoned R-3) was about five years ago and there was absolutely no opposition at all,” he said. “Before I bought the property I did some homework. I took the plat to Mitch Kinder to look at what I could fit on it. Ironically, he owned the lot beside me and told me he did rezone it with no opposition at all.”

One townhome in that development rents for $1,200 a month. The rest are owner occupied.

Hawkins bought the property about two months ago. The average property value in the neighborhood is about $120,000.

“A lot of the property is around the $90,000 mark, with two or three properties in and around there that would get on up to $180,000 to $200,000, but I would still be above the average in there,” the developer said.

He suggested the taxes generated from the sale of the properties would help road building and schools. During construction, about 128 workers would be able to feed their families, he said.

“Obviously, I want to do this. I think this is the best thing for the community. This is in demand. People love it. It’s low-maintenance, that sort of thing,” Hawkins continued. “Plan B is, I would be forced to build eight small rental houses.”

“I don’t want to do that. That’s not what I’m pushing for, but I bought the property and I’ve got to do something with it,” he said. The rental homes under “Plan B” would be a maximum of 1,000 square feet and “as cheap as I can build them. I do have an investor lined up for that but again, I’m not pushing for that. I’m not for that. I don’t think that’s the right thing for the city to do, to go in there and develop that property like that.”