A plumbing contractor who lives in the northwestern part of the city received approval Monday from the City Council for a rezoning of his property so he can have a standalone business building by his home.
However, just before the vote a council member expressed concern and was rebutted by another council member supportive of the rezoning.
The council met with the Rocky Mount Planning Board on Oct. 11 after the council on Sept. 26 voted to hold the joint meeting to discuss Anthony Ray Richardson’s request for the rezoning.
That request involved more than 7.8 acres of land along Hunter Hill Road adjacent to the Spring Garden subdivision.
The Planning Board on Oct. 11 voted to recommend forwarding Richardson’s request for a rezoning to the council.
Richardson wanted the land rezoned from medium-density multifamily residential to office and institutional mixed-use so he can construct a roughly 2,500-square-foot building where he can sell parts and provide services.
The item was on the latter part of the agenda of the council regular meeting on Monday.
Councilman Reuben Blackwell made a motion in favor of the rezoning and he received a second from Councilman Andre Knight.
After Mayor Sandy Roberson asked whether there was a need for any pre-vote discussion by the council, Councilman Tom Harris said, “I just want to express my concern that we are doing something that could open up other people coming to the Planning Board and/or City Council for similar requests.”
“The city does indeed need to look at its land development code and hopefully over the next year or two do an exhaustive study and present such changes of the code to the city,” he said.
Harris said according to the property tax records he viewed at the courthouse in Nashville, the value of Richardson’s property for taxation purposes is listed at $120,680.
Harris said he is neither an appraiser nor has talked with any commercial developer, but he said he can see the value of this property increasing, perhaps substantially.
Harris also said according to documents as part of the council meeting agenda on Monday, the Institute of Transportation Engineers trip generation manual said a mixed-use office park may generate approximately 195 new vehicles per day per acre of development on an average weekday.
Harris made clear if the rezoned site was to be developed into a mixed-use office park on 4.5 acres of a parcel of land, some 877 new daily trips may be generated.
Harris made clear he knows Richardson has spoken before the council, as well as the Planning Board, about wanting to maintain his residence on the property and to just open up a little shop for his plumbing business.
Harris said he believes the question is how does the council not know Richardson might sell the property within a short period of time after the rezoning changes made or next year or two years from now.
And Harris said he believes there should be some conditions with the approval of the request for the rezoning.
Knight said what he was about to ask may be a question for the municipal staff. He wanted to know whether there had been a similar rezoning granted without a conditional use.
“I believe we have in the last 20 years,” Knight said. “Am I wrong?”
No one from the staff present responded, but Knight said if he is correct, “I’ve seen other people come in here — and depending on who they are and what they look like — get rezoned and sell it in 30 days and get maybe millions of dollars.
“Here’s this young African American man with seven acres, wanting to put a little plumbing business in the back of his yard, live peaceably with all men and make a little money,” Knight said. “Now we question that his intent is to rezone and to sell it because the property would be valuable.”
Knight cited the old saying, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Without naming names, Knight, who was first elected to the council in 2003, also said, “I’ve seen people come in here — Realtors who sat on the Planning Board – and zone properties, take land from little people who didn’t know no better and made millions of dollars — and build homes at a half a million dollars.
“But then the little old lady gets $125,000 off of Greystone,” Knight said, a reference to an upscale residential area on the western side of the city.
He emphasized his belief that based on what he sees it is all right for some, but not others, to make money.
“I have a problem with that — and it’s not in the general statute. It’s just a moral thing with me,” he said.
In addition to Blackwell and Knight, Councilmen Lige Daughtridge, Richard Joyner, Jabaris “JKelly” Walker and T.J. Walker voted in favor of the rezoning. Harris voted against the rezoning.
During the joint meeting of the Planning Board and the City Council on Oct. 11, the Planning Board voted for the recommendation for the rezoning because the municipal comprehensive plan for smart growth, which dates to 2003, does not take into account today’s zoning and use environments along the Hunter Hill Road corridor area.
The Planning Board also cited an ability to shift away from using the comprehensive plan for smart growth for this particular application because having small-scale commercial enterprises in that general area is not inappropriate and does not significantly increase the zoning usage for that particular area.
The Planning Board conducts a comprehensive and continuing program to direct Rocky Mount’s growth.
Based on the recommendation of staff, the Planning Board had initially declined to recommend Richardson’s request for rezoning because the municipal land development code does not list Hunter Hill Road as one of the corridors intended for office and institutional mixed-use development and because a rezoning of the site would cause an increase in the density of usage in the immediate area.
The Planning Board also had initially declined to recommend the rezoning because the request did not comply with the comprehensive plan for smart growth — that is, controlling urban sprawl.