Zoning issues, growth plague Georgetown Road residents

By TIM SINIARD
Posted 7/21/19

Cleveland resident Anthony Raspa and five other landowners worry a road widening project planned for Georgetown Road will lower home values unless the properties are rezoned.The widening project …

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Zoning issues, growth plague Georgetown Road residents

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Cleveland resident Anthony Raspa and five other landowners worry a road widening project planned for Georgetown Road will lower home values unless the properties are rezoned.

The widening project includes a  5.9-mile stretch of roadway —also referred as Highway 60 — which runs from Interstate 75 to State Route 306. It consists of three-lane sections, passing lanes, 12-foot travel lanes and eight-foot shoulders.

The Georgetown road project has been in the planning stages for several years. The bidding process is expecting to begin in October.

Rezoning the six properties, which are located between Kimberly Drive N.W., and Weston Hills Drive N.W., would change their status from R-3 Multi-family Residential to PI Professional Institutional, which Raspa thinks will be a remedy to the zoning question.

During the Cleveland Planning Commission’s meeting Tuesday, Raspa urged commission members to rezone the properties. Although the rezoning request was listed on the meeting agenda under new business, the commissioners chose to table the request for further study until next month’s meeting.

The rezoning effort was opposed by property owners in several subdivisions, who, along with Raspa, were present at Tuesday night's meeting at the Municipal Building.

Raspa told the Cleveland Daily Banner   he and the other property owners requesting the rezoning are worried they will be unable to sell their homes if their properties remain zoned R-3 after the highway is widened, resulting in ever more traffic as additional residential properties are constructed in the area.

“All of us are in the same boat,” Raspa said. “We’re afraid we will lose the equity we have built up.” 

He has owned his residence since 1997. 

Even now, the highway is so busy, Raspa and his neighbors have trouble exiting their driveways. 

“We live it every day,” Raspa said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Widening the highway will bring in more development, which will increase traffic and further affect the values of their homes, according to Raspa. In addition, the project will encroach on their property through easements. However, Raspa did not yet know how many feet of his property will be acquired.

 “No one will want our properties,” Raspa said. “If we can’t sell, what choices do we have? We don’t know what to do. We’ll be stuck.”

Another resident, Joseph Lombard, whose home is located in Weston Hills, a subdivision located on Georgetown Road, opposes the rezoning plan, claiming that changing the status to PI would foster commercial development and adding more traffic congestion to the area.

“It’s jam-packed at 7 a.m.,” Lombard said during a July 24 meeting of the Cleveland City Council.

A bank is located almost directly across the street from Raspa's house. An office complex sits across the street from the Weston Hills entrance.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Lombard urged the commissioners not to change the area’s zoning status. 

“Leave it like it is,” Lombard said.

He said his subdivision has 112 residents.  Lennox Hills, located nearby, has 130 residents.

There are three schools in the vicinity: Cleveland Middle School, Hopewell Elementary School and the soon-to-be-opened Candy's Creek Cherokee Elementary School. The presence of the news school will further aggravate traffic problems in the area, some residents claim.

In addition, he said a 216-unit apartment complex is planned to be constructed near Georgetown Road and Villa Drive, which will further increase traffic congestion.

Lombard told the Banner that tabling the rezoning issue until next month will give everyone more time to get informed.

"We are still trying to process what should be done," Lombard said.

Although he is president of the Weston Hills Homeowners Association, Lombard said he does not speak for everyone. And while he opposes changing the status of six properties from R-3 to PI, he is aware that the area's current status can still result in additional development as allowed under the current zoning status.

He has lived in Weston Hills for three years.

Under current R-3 zoning, single-family detached dwellings, churches, pre-schools, primary schools, secondary schools, golf courses, multi-family residential dwellings, duplexes, triplexes, quadraplexes and townhomes are allowed.

PI zoning allows single family homes built or located prior to 2008, professional offices, colleges, trade schools, dance studios, martial arts studios, barber shops, beauty salons, nail studios, cemeteries, funeral homes, residential care facilities, foster homes, churches, medical offices, veterinary offices and hospitals, according to the City of Cleveland's zoning ordinance.

In addition, financial institutions are allowed under the PI designation.

"We'll have places like Check Into Cash," Lombard said.

 Lombard, despite opposing the zoning request, does empathize with the landowners.

"If I owned a house on one of those properties, I would probably want it rezoned too," Lombard said.

But changing the zoning status would amount to spot zoning, according to Lombard.

According to Planners Web, a planning and news information website, "the 'classic' definition of spot zoning is 'the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of other owners.'"

Lombard said he is currently studying state laws and codes related to property zoning.

According to the State of Tennessee Office of the Attorney General, "As a general matter, courts have concluded that ordinances that adopt 'spot zoning,' as courts interpret that term, are invalid because they do not bear a substantial relationship to the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare and are out of harmony and in conflict with the comprehensive zoning ordinance of the particular municipality. No city, therefore, may implement spot zoning as Tennessee courts define that term, whether inside or outside its boundaries."

However, the rezoning, according to the city staff, would be consistent with what is found along this corridor, specifically the existing use currently to the west of the highway.

According to planning commission staff notes related to the zoning request, a "PI district is limited in what is allowed and would have minimal impact on the existing residential area. In addition, the requested change is an area of considerable size and could support a legitimate professional development."

Importantly, "the rezoning would be consistent with what is found along this corridor, specifically the existing use currently west of State Route 60. As a result, "the area is large enough that it should not be subject to questions of spot zoning."

City staff also noted that under the current R-3 zoning, multi-family units such as the one planned for the area "would likely generate over twice as many daily trips than a general office development and slightly higher trip generation during peak hours," which reflects what Raspa contends.

Raspa said growth in the area has been occurring for a long time, unlike Lombard’s description as something that will occur in the future if the zoning is changed.

 “We have already seen growth,” Raspa said, referring to the development of subdivisions that resulted in more residents moving to the area.

 “Everyone was OK with growth then,” he said.

 Leaving the zoning designation as is will invite the type of development that residents like Lombard dread.

 Although Raspa and Lombard hold opposing views, Raspa said they also share similar concerns. However, he said rezoning the six properties to PI could be a solution that is acceptable to everyone.

 “It’s a fix for everybody,” Raspa said. “It’s an insurance policy. This will be like a warm blanket.”

 


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