Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Out, Out, Damned Spot (Zoning)!!

If you’re following LPDS closely (and if you’re reading this, we’re pretty sure that you are), no doubt you’ve heard the phrase “spot-zoning” thrown around pretty regularly.  In fact, this is one of the more commonly-used arguments against LPDS, so we’d like to briefly address it here.  (We’ve never “briefly” addressed anything in our lives.  Ed.)

Spot-zoning is just what it sounds like, changing the zoning permissions for one particular piece of land while leaving the parcels nearby in their original zoning configuration.

If you want a more textbook definition, then defines it as: “a provision in a general plan which benefits a single parcel of land by creating a zone for use just for that parcel and different from the surrounding properties in the area.”

Spot zoning is, by the way, not always a bad thing.  For instance, putting a police substation in a residential area might require spot zoning.  Or a school, for that matter.  We’re big fans of the dog park over on Whit Davis Road, and we wonder if any changes in zoning were necessary to create the park there.  

(We also wonder if we couldn’t get something like that on the west side, but that’s a different post for a different day.)

Opponents of LPDS will tell you that spot zoning is necessary in order for Bruno Rubio to develop the land.  This isn’t actually the case.  

The Cofer’s property, which we’d like to see made into LPDS, is actually already spot-zoned.  LPDS merely seeks to reverse that existing spot zoning, and to return the property to its original zoning, under the existing land-use plan.

As it stands right now, just about the only thing that can go on that particular parcel of land is another lawn and garden store like Cofer’s.  Our understanding is that they had to request the rezoning in order to build their greenhouse.

With Lowe’s coming to the east side, and with already existing businesses like Charmar nearby, what are the chances that anyone would want to put another store like Cofer’s in that location?  Heck, Cofer’s went under in that location, so it doesn’t exactly lend itself to inspiring confidence in anyone else wanting to do the same thing there.

The fact is that the land was zoned commercial, as Super-Commissioner (and poverty warrior) Elton Dodson has pointed out.  Cedar Shoals Drive was intended, under the ACC Land Use Plan, to be a commercial corridor.  And nothing short of rezoning the entire area is going to change that.  

The question is then, what type of development do we want to see on Cedar Shoals Drive?  

We’ve been clear all along.  This is a good development; it’s a project that the ACC Planning Commission approved unanimously.  The Planning Commission, much like the residents, carefully considered the problems of traffic and noise, and found those concerns to be negligible.  (The nearest homeowner lives almost three football fields away, and the existing surface streets can easily handle the marginal increase in traffic volume, says the Planning Commission)

So if not LPDS, then what?  Another big box store?  Another cookie-cutter TGI O’Applebee’s restaurant?  An office park that turns into a ghost town after dark?

Or a destination with truly local flavor and truly local color, that contributes more to the local economy than any of the other options ever would?

The most important point is that this is not spot zoning.  It’s the reversal of spot zoning.

Email the crack editorial staff here.


Jmac said...

Ex-freaking-actly. I think Dodson nailed it on the hand, much to McCarter's chagrin, when he said this area was already pegged for commercial development. And no one had any problems with that five or so years ago, but now everyone is claiming they want to spot zone things left and right.

Much like what I said at my blog, it's another example of misleading by McCarter is this case.

hillary said...

Kathy Hoard also pointed it out in a questioning way when she asked if the property would have to be rezoned for _anything_ other than a garden center.

RandomThoughts said...

As a resident of the west side, owned by a dog, I like your idea about a dog park on the west side. I love the one on the east side but it is too far for me to go daily. Can we start a crusade?

Publius said...

One crusade at a time, please. The crack editorial staff can only dispense so much truth.

Seriously, someone at the meeting made a point that has consistently stuck with me. They said in effect, that the Mayor and Commission shouldn't be in the business of spot zoning.

I guess my response to that, having looked into it now, is that the Mayor and Commission also shouldn't be in the business of setting businesses up to fail, which is probably what happens if another property like Cofer's takes over.

But, if LPDS doesn't pass, and if, down the road, the generic TGI O'ChiliBee's wants to move in, they will need a rezone as well. If that were to pass, what would that say about the Mayor and Commission and the east side?

monticello_pres said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
monticello_pres said...

You make excellent points regarding the fact that the Cedar Shoals Drive location has been rezoned in the past. But the property was not zoned from C-N to C-O (PD). It was C-O (or the equivalent at the time) which is Commercial Office as opposed to Commercial Neighborhood. It needed the (PD) designation in order to have the greenhouse operation. If there is a motion to take the rezone back to C-O without (PD), I think most east side residents would be just as supportive as we were when Mr. Cofer requested our "stamp of approval" for the (PD) change in the first place. Either way, I am not aware of a provision that would allow a restaurant and bar at this site (not LPDS or TGI O'Chilligans Grille).

Moving aside from these rants, though, I am surprised to find no mention of today's front-page ABH article regarding Mr. Rubio. Maybe it's coming and I have jumped the gun a bit. If so, I apologize. But this is his 2nd eviction with 2 property owners having issues with his use of their property. One was the BYOB issue and one with parking problems (of patrons) cited.

And since this eviction has reached front-page news, I think it finally begs a question (or series of questions) to be asked. Are 911 and/or non-emergency-police-calls kept as public record? If so, how can one find out the true police report history for the addresses rented/leased to Mr. Rubio?

Many ABH stories talk about him as the patron-saint of the restaurant business. I have to admit that my encounters with him have been very pleasant and that I have enjoyed eating at both of his establishments. But, simultaneously, rumors are flying about how frequent police visits were required due to noise, parking, crime, etc. at his restaurants.

I would love for these records to be made public so that either (1) we know the truth or (2) the vocally belligerent opposition would drop this topic from the rumor mill and let this remain a pure zoning discussion.

Publius said...

Ah. We probably mentioned it just as you posted your comment. Hit refresh and you'll catch our take.

I'd mention that there are two sides to every story, and I'd imagine that this thing goes a lot deeper than parking problems.

In any event, I'm no conspiracy buff, but the timing on this seems awfully suspect.

Additionally, according to the article, Bruno Rubio has already been planning to move out. The fact that Flanagan decided to hit him with an eviction notice anyway sounds like, well, for lack of a better word - douchebaggery.

In fact, perhaps the operative statement is that this spat stems from, "whether [Rubio] would buy a block of buildings along Prince Avenue."

That could indicate several things, but to me, it implies that either Bruno was interested in buying (or Flanagan was interested in selling) some real estate in Normaltown, and when Bruno changed his mind, Flanagan got nasty.

Note that, according to the ABH piece, Flanagan says, "Bruno had the right of first refusal to rent the whole building, and he passed on that option."

Hmmm...que interesante. So, Flanagan changed the terms? Rent the whole shebang, or hit the road? Suddenly parking seems less and less likely.

Either way, I'm not willing to put the blame entirely on Bruno on this one, until I hear some more information, and I would hope everyone out there who urges a sane and considered approach to the LPDS situation will do the same here.

But I digress. In fact, this whole situation is a great argument for why LPDS should pass. And why Bruno should buy (as he wants to) and not rent.

And, as an aside, it's also a testament to how successful Bruno's restaurant endeavors have been.

My two cents, neither the Caliente Cab/Azucca property nor the Pollo Criollo property ended up being adequate for the sheer volume of people who come out to eat at Bruno's places. The food is too good, the atmosphere too inviting. The LPDS site (assuming everyone has seen the plans) will, in my non-architect's opinion, be adequate. Plenty of space, plenty of parking, and situated far enough away from homeowners that the Planning Commission decided that noise wouldn't be an issue.

As far as police reports go, sure, I believe that they are public record. But when you go to check them out, please also take a look at how many noise, pd, etc complaints were called in for Tivoli, Barrington, etc. For that matter, check out Cedar Creek too. Just in the interests of equal time.