Planners approve credit union rezoning request

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Give them credit. That was the majority decision made by Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission members on a rezoning request submitted by the Happy Valley Credit Union at Tuesday night's commission meeting.
   The commission voted 4-3 to rezone a tract of property at 215 East C Street from residential to business zoning. Commissioners voted to deny essentially the same proposal in October 2002.
   Attorney Regina Shepherd representing Happy Valley Credit Union said the institution had purchased the property from Martin Meredith in December.
   "This property is surrounded by B-2 (business) property except for the property on the side of the house," said Shepherd. Two occupied residences lie on each side of the property. Jeff Williams of the Credit Union told commissioners the development plans only created a parking lot and not an ATM on the property at this time.
   Michael Hughes of the State Planning Office told the commission that the wisest decision planners could make would be rezoning six lots -- including the credit union's property -- on East C Street from Lynn Avenue to Elm Street. Hughes said in light of the growing commercial base around the neighborhood, rezoning several tracts would provide a better planning footprint for the future.
   "We do support the rezoning because the external characteristics have changed," Hughes said of the neighborhood.
   City and state planning officers warned the commission in October they felt the request amounted to "spot-zoning". Attorney Charlton DeVault who represents the commission said the proposal did not constitute spot zoning. He pointed out that the 215 East C Street property bordered an existing tract of land zoned for business and lay directly across from the Credit Union property.
   "The Credit Union really has a compelling argument in light of the Citizens' Bank situation," said DeVault.
   The "Citizens' Bank situation" DeVault referred to was the other rezoning decision made by the commission on Tuesday. Prior to hearing the credit union's request, commissioners voted 7-0 to approve a similar rezoning proposal from Citizens' Bank to rezone a 150' x 115' tract located immediately behind the bank's Broad Street location. That property lies less than one block from the 215 East C Street property.
   City director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, refrained from speaking to the Credit Union's request. Ornduff's brother Harry Ornduff along with fellow East C Street resident Sid Smithdeal opposed the proposal and were present at Tuesday's meeting.
   Hughes also told commissioners that property owners would see an increase in property values -- not necessarily property taxes -- with the rezoning request.
   Commissioner Nancy Alsup made the motion to approve rezoning the 215 East C Street property only, which received a second from Manual Bandarra. Both voted yes as did commissioners Howard Matherly and Victor Deloach to the motion. Commissioners Shipley, Cole and chairman Haynes Elliott voted no.