Rockwell aldermen approve permit for 40-house development

Published 12:07 am Thursday, May 16, 2024

ROCKWELL — Rockwell Mayor Chuck Bowman was forced to vote multiple times as a tiebreaker as the board of aldermen approved a permit for a controversial housing development on Monday.

The plans for the housing development, located near the intersection of Sides and Palmer roads, call for a 40-house neighborhood to be built on a 15-acre undeveloped property, which currently has an address of 750 Palmer Road. The public hearing for the special-use permit began during the April meeting of the board of aldermen, at which point the aldermen voted to table any decisions until the developer could answer a few outstanding questions.

Engineer Frank Cantrell attempted to answer those questions on Monday. He said that he brought in the company’s boilerplate homeowners’ association agreement so that the aldermen could view it and he said that the properties will have 1,300 square feet as the bare minimum house size.

One of the aldermen’s concerns, however, remained unanswered and was put into the agreement as a condition. The aldermen had asked Cantrell to set up a community meeting so that neighbors could add their input to what type of buffer the development should use between it and adjacent properties.

“I have not gotten a hold of the adjacent owners because, as I told (Zoning Administrator) Shelley (Williamson), I was going to wait to see what the result of tonight’s meeting is before I reached out. I didn’t see any reason to reach out to start talking about something that may or may not happen,” said Cantrell.

Because the meeting had not happened yet, the aldermen and Cantrell mutually agreed to make it a condition of the permit, which means that the developer is obligated to hold the community meeting. All conditions must be agreed to by both the town and the applicant.

Much of the discussion in the previous meeting centered around the discrepancy between the surrounding lot sizes and the proposed lot size in the development. As Rockwell resident Terry Medley said in both the April and May meetings, there will be “three houses in every backyard.” William McQueen, a partner in the development, defended the lot size, saying that larger lot sizes were becoming economically unfeasible and that the smaller ones were becoming more of the norm in other communities.

“These types of developments are becoming the norm, and what this type of development does is bring diversity to a community. It’s a development for those who might not have been able to afford a house with the higher cost of development now,” said McQueen.

The board required anyone who wished to speak during the reopened public comment period to provide new testimony instead of circling back to topics that were discussed in April. Afterwards, the board voted on the required findings of fact. Only four aldermen were present, as Alderman Stephanie Walker was absent from the meeting.

The first question in the findings is whether the special permit would materially endanger the public health, safety or welfare. The aldermen answered that question in the affirmative with Mayor Pro-Tem Chris Cranford being the only one to vote no.

The second question is whether the development meets all regulations and standards of the town’s development regulations. The aldermen voted unanimously to answer the question yes.

The third issue was whether issuing the special-use permit would substantially injure the values of the surrounding properties. Cranford and Alderman Bill Earnhardt voted no while aldermen Dillon Brewer and Jay Stake voted yes. Bowman broke the tie by voting yes.

The final question was whether the development would be in harmony with the surrounding area. Cranford and Earnhardt both voted no again while Brewer and Stake voted yes. Bowman broke the tie with another yes.

If the board answers all those questions by voting yes, then the town’s zoning regulations require them to approve the special-use permit. They did so with a vote of three to one, with Cranford the only alderman who voted to deny the special-use permit.

After the aldermen approved the zoning permit, what had been a full house of approximately 30 concerned citizens all crammed into the town’s board room emptied out.