[Monticello Pres. is a regular contributor to Athens Politics.]
I was asked to fill in for the vacationing (and working) Athens Politics folks today. And they even asked if I would like to submit about the on-again, off-again, on-again La Puerta del Sol (LPDS) rezoning petition on Cedar Shoals Drive (CSD). I'll toss out a few other nuggets for the sake of staying well rounded.
I will begin by clarifying that I have never been an LPDS opponent - I have been an opponent of the rezoning of the Cofers site on CSD. I have frequented Caliente Cab and Pollo Crillo in the past and enjoy Bruno Rubio's work. I respect him as a businessman and as a restauranteer.
There are LPDS opponents among us, I cannot deny that. But the overwhelming majority of the folks that I work with and have talked with are concerned about one issue and one issue only - the rezoning of this site. You may not have realized that after reading much of Blake Aued's writing, but he consistently puts forth a disappointing attempt at journalism. To my knowledge, Blake has still not spoken with the President or Vice President of the homeowner associations opposing this project. He and his bosses apparently have other motives and the truth seems to get in the way of those, unfortunately.
So why are so many eastsiders opposed? Well, it's about precedent. Don Nelson, of the local Banner Herald's business section, wrote sometime in the past about the LPDS issue. He said that rezoning requests are always considered on their own merits and precedent doesn't matter. This is the closest that anyone with the ABH has come to vocalizing the opposing logic, by the way. He then went on to write, just a few paragraphs later, that the current rezoning request should be approved because the gas station and gym have C-N zonings. So precedent doesn't matter - but it does. And that is precisely the problem. Once this property is rezoned to C-N, which gives a whole hell of a lot more latitude than a restaurant, there is no going back. This property is forever more C-N. And it starts us on the slippery slope for the rest of the CSD corridor to also go C-N. And, I'll repeat, that gives a whole hell of a lot more latitude than just a restaurant and/or bakery. It gives us another Barnett Shoals Road or Atlanta Highway. And, quite frankly, that is just not acceptable. (Please also note that the gas station and gym have C-N zonings from a grandfathered decision of a previous zoning criteria decades ago).
Ast the old addage says, you also have to walk a mile (or at least a few steps) in our moccasins. You have to see that so much local and currently zoned C-N space is sitting idle. Vacant. The old Willowwood shopping center with its outparcels needs a new business infusion. The newly built - and long time process - of Ansonborough needs tenants. The Cedar Pointe development that will one day include commercial space at the tip of Cedar Creek - if the developer can find the money to continue. The stalled Tower Place would certainly need such a tenant but for 2 reasons. First, it hasn't seen a construction worker in months. Second, it has been deemed too close to a school (Gaines Elementary and Hilsman Middle) to allow a restaurant selling alcohol. Then you have the WalMart outparcels and soon to arrive Lowes outparcels. Moving down Lexington Hwy there was even another site available when this process started - already zoned C-N. The old Edwards Pharmacy just inside the loop. But it was deemed unattractive by the buyer's agent (who happens to be the seller's consultant), and it sat for a few months before becoming a latin-themed restaurant. Wow, what an idea!
You also must have a sense of history. And as many of you have heard me say, this property was previously rezoned to allow the Cofers home-and-garden business. Without the addition of a PD designation, this business would not fit within the C-O designation previously held by this address. The Cofers petitioned area neighborhoods for their support - and ultimately received it. But they ran that business unsuccessfully for a few years and now have a vacant building on their hands. Now it's time to sell and they want yet another rezone - all the way to C-N - to help bail them out of this mess. How wonderful that would be.
Bottom line, this whole issue with the eastside neighborhoods started when the LPDS petitioners came seeking our support before submitting their plans to the process. As they stated, they didn't want to get into this issue if we didn't want their business there. We reviewed their plans and offered our thoughts - as they are listed above. We concluded that we could not support the rezone. Next step... the request went straight to Stuart Cofer's friends at the A-CC Planning Commission for their stamp of approval. And we were on the other end of the spin machine.
When you have hundreds - if not thousands - of local residents opposing a petition, there are going to be a variety of reasons for the individual oppositions. So, yes, noise has been a concern of some. Traffic issues have been of others. The alcohol issue across the street from the high school is a tough one to get beyond for many. Not because of sales to underage students - but because of the sharing of CSD (and the same red light) by students and their families with drivers under the influence of alcohol. These are concerns, for sure. After all, big nights for a restaurant and bar are also big nights for CSHS football games and basketball games. But the biggest concern is that of the rezoning. The C-N designation for that site forever more and the precedent it sets for the properties along the CSD corridor.
There is current discussion about a Special District Overlay (SDO) for CSD. The Planning Department has started the process for this. And this will help us avoid messy issues like this in the future. It will more clearly define what businesses and what zonings are available along the CSD corridor. This SDO will allow a compromise between those wanting commercial development down this road and those concerned by such "progress". As for the LPDS request, though, it would not be governed by such a proposed SDO. So we will review the recently re-submitted plans. And we will see how the A-CC commission decides to vote in early February. Stay tuned.
Carl with our checkbook
Blake Aued wrote last Friday about Commissioner Carl Jordan's desires to bury utility lines along Baxter Street. Budget overrides are obviously of no concern to him. Instead, he's more concerned with hundred-watt bulbs and equal urination opportunity in downtown bars. It sounds like the other commisioners (at least a majority) may have a bit more fiscal discipline and will act appropriately.
I trust all will have a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year. If you do not celebrate Christmas, then please have a Happy Holidays and a safe New Year.
If you were offended by the Merry Christmas offer, then find a hobby ... you obviously have too much time and too few distractions in your life.