Neighborhood Turns Out in Opposition to Proposed Rezoning Request (View Video Here)

April 2, 2024
By: Dwayne Page

After a public hearing in which eleven neighbors spoke in opposition, the Smithville Aldermen Monday night decided to take no action on a request by Sullivan Walter Homes. LLC to rezone 11.85 acres of their 39.49 acre property adjacent to Walmart from R-1 residential to C-1 commercial.

The proposed ordinance 523 was up for first reading action and if approved would have been the first step in rezoning the site. The city planning commission met March 11 and recommended rezoning the property. But several residents of Oakhaven Subdivision showed up Monday night to ask the aldermen to deny the request.

The site is located from West Broad Street by the entrance to Walmart on the north side extending to the southwest corner of the Walmart property on the south side. On the west side, the site is near other properties including a portion of Oakhaven Subdivision.

Four years ago, a previous owner of the property Jada Cantrell, also came before the mayor and aldermen but she wanted her entire property to be rezoned from R-1 residential to C-1 commercial. Neighbors in the area showed up in opposition at that time and the aldermen denied Cantrell’s request even after a favorable recommendation for rezoning from the planning commission.

Neighbors showed up again this time with concerns about the impact potential commercial development would have on the value of their property; possible increase in traffic and crime; and health and sanitation issues.

During the public hearing, the mayor and aldermen heard from residents on Oak Glen Drive and Stone Haven Drive of Oakhaven Subdivision including Tony Fuston, Thena Edwards, Brittany Bogle, Dustin Bogle, Lauren Allen Burdick, Jason Lattimore, Chris McMillen, Jeannie Smith, John Parker, Nikki Yarbrough, and Phil Roberts. All were opposed to the proposed rezoning request.

“I think if this were approved, the (property) values would significantly depreciate with all or most homes in the subdivision,” said Fuston.

“Oakhaven is like a dream neighborhood,” said Lattimore. “ You go through there most evenings and you will see kids riding their bikes, families taking a walk after dinner, or dads playing ball with their kids. Allowing commercial development to encroach right up to the edge of this neighborhood is not the way to go,” said Lattimore. “Commercial zoning allows a wide range of development and nobody wants that in their back yard. I work in commercial property management for a really large restaurant company. I can tell you that operating a business requires dumpsters which stink and they bring rats and roaches so I have concerns just from the health and sanitation standpoint,” Lattimore continued. “The other issue with commercial property is that no matter how attractive it is at one time or another it is going to set vacant and that kind of situation attracts criminal activity and loitering. I see very little benefit in this and lots of harm to health and safety and the peaceable living of the people in the subdivision,” said Lattimore.

“I am from here (Smithville) but I once lived in Nashville close to commercial property and it was a headache,” said Smith. “I lived behind a theater and the racket from them emptying those dumpsters would wake me up. My condo was also broken into and I believe it had a lot to do with the fact that I was backed up to that commercial property,” said Smith.

“I want to know what you are bringing to our back yard,” asked Dustin Bogle.

The owner, Tonya Sullivan explained during the public hearing that while the property is for sale, she does not yet have a buyer. Sullivan stressed that she is not trying to harm the neighborhood in making this request for rezoning.

“This is our property that we are talking about,” said Sullivan. “I haven’t spoken to anyone. The property is for sale and part of it is already commercial. We (Sullivan Walter Homes) do not want to impede on these folks (neighbors). We were trying to go back (rezone) even with Walmart (property line). At some point we would like to develop the other 30 something acres into housing. Everybody here is painting a picture. The neighborhood is super nice. That is absolutely true but I am here to tell you that the homeless people have almost taken that property over. Very often (law enforcement) is calling me asking if they can go in and remove the tents and the trash. At different times, they have had to bring in dumpsters and a dozer at one time or some type of heavy equipment to go in and clean up the homeless that are in that area,” explained Sullivan. “

“We feel like its not right for us not to be able to sell the front part of that all the way equal (with Walmart). At some point you (city) had to approve the James Ed Rice property there where Walmart sets and for it to be commercial. We are just asking for the same fair treatment. I do appreciate these folks coming out and I don’t have any ill feelings. I consider most of them friends. I understand their concerns. Even if you grant this, we want to work with them (neighbors) to protect their property. That would only be fair to them,” added Sullivan.

“I can very easily put myself in their (neighbors’) shoes,” said Alderman Jessica Higgins. “ I have been that mom with young kids and I love where we live and there is not a lot of traffic. That is hard for me to disassociate myself from. I am a little bit troubled with not knowing what is going in there as well,” said Alderman Higgins.

Alderman Beth Chandler wanted to ask Sullivan a question prior to action on the request but Mayor Josh Miller said the aldermen could not engage the audience at that point during the meeting.

When Mayor Miller asked whether the aldermen wanted to make a motion, none did and the proposed rezoning request died for the lack of a motion.

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