Foxfire residents lose fight against developer

By LARRY C. BOWERS Staff Writer
Posted 8/16/17

Residents of Foxfire subdivision left Tuesday evening’s Municipal Planning Commission under a cloud of disappointment.

The Planning Commission approved a request by Phillip E. McManus for …

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Foxfire residents lose fight against developer

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Residents of Foxfire subdivision left Tuesday evening’s Municipal Planning Commission under a cloud of disappointment.

The Planning Commission approved a request by Phillip E. McManus for preliminary plat approval of Fleeman Place townhomes. The property is located on Michigan Avenue Road, and the planning entrance and exit will come out onto Foxfire Road.

Foxfire residents have voiced strong opposition to the development plans for some time, and that opposition had been recognized with denials for the developer.

Planning Commission members voted unanimously for approval of the preliminary plat this time around, following direction and advice from City Attorney John Kimball.

“To turn a plat down, you have to give a legitimate reason,” Kimball said. “Anyone voting to deny will have to articulate your reason.” He went on to explain that without legal reason to deny the request, the commission member, and the city, would be liable to challenge in a court of law.

City staff had recommended approval of the plat request, since McManus’ property and plans meet all requirements for the proposed use.

This issue and property have come before the Planning Commission, and City Council, multiple times. It is the front section of a two-part parcel, with the front along Michigan Avenue Road and zoned R2 in the city. The rear portion is in the city.

McManus had asked that the property in the county, zoned FAR, be annexed into the city and the entire parcel would have been zoned R2. Due to excessive opposition from Foxfire residents, the Planning Commission and council turned McManus’ request aside.

He later returned with a plan for the housing development bordering Michigan Avenue Road, but a planned cul-de-sac lapped over onto the county portion of the property. The Planning Commission delayed a vote on plat approval, pending action by county planners.

McManus returned to Tuesday’s meeting with a revised plat, placing the entire development in the city.

The biggest complaint from residents was the entrance/exit onto Foxfire Road. They said the roadway is widely used by walkers and cyclists, and they felt these people will be placed in harm’s way.

The eventual approval of McManus’ request included a suggestion from the Planning Commission, made by Maryl Elliott. They are asking city staff to work with the developer of the property, to see if some arrangement can be made for traffic to empty onto Michigan Avenue Road instead of Foxfire.

McManus, who has homes in Kingsport and Naples, Fla., was asked by Planning Commission Chairman Dee Burris if he would consider single-family homes on the property, if the annexation request were reconsidered.

“Probably not,” said McManus. “We got boxed into this. We want to move forward, and we just want some relief.” McManus was one of the first developers of Foxfire subdivision.

Several residents spoke up in opposition, mentioning the entrance off Foxfire, the anticipated devaluation of their property, a concern about incoming tenants, safety, increased traffic, and the need for a traffic study — not only because of this proposed development, but throughout the surrounding community.

The residents included Jane and Billy Wright, Tim Murphy, Marilyn Mackey, and others.

It was evident some planning commission members sympathized with the residents, but had no recourse but to approve the preliminary plat.

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