Highland Drive Master Plan amendment request met with mixed emotions
Closed-down Roots Garden Nursery last to utilize property in question. (Aspen Perry/City Journals)
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During a city council public hearing held July 6, the city council heard mixed reactions from residents neighboring Arbor Lane regarding their preference on a proposed amendment to the Highland Drive Master Plan (HDMP). The plan would allow the property at 5025 South Highland Drive to move from segment B, commercial use, to segment A, residential use.
Based on the input from the residents who addressed the council, the major deciding factor was their concern over the impact a new development would bring — regardless if it was commercial or residential.
“I would love to see commercial, but I don’t want to take the risk that there’s a restaurant or a bar, or something there that is not really part of what the neighborhood feel is,” said one Arbor Lane resident.
Another resident disagreed, saying, “If it’s between a business and 16 units, I want the business.”
The proposed amendment was first heard during a June 6 planning commission meeting. Though the commission’s vote was not unanimous, commissioners’ recommendation to the city council was to deny the request to remove the property from commercial use to residential use.
During the June 6 planning commission meeting, Richard Duggar, current co-owner of the property where Roots Garden Nursery attempted to operate, explained the struggles the owners have faced attempting to lease the property to businesses over the years.
“We’ve had three or four different businesses in there. I’ve let them all out of their leases, never held any of them, because they couldn’t make a buck, “ Duggar said.
The planning commission heard protests from neighbors not in favor as well as statements from property owners before the motion to recommend denial of the request passed 5-1. The majority felt that another age-restrictive, high-density development would not serve the community as well as maintaining the commercial use could.
Upon city council opening up the public hearing portion on July 6, residents of Arbor Lane spoke to the council regarding moving the property from commercial to residential use.
The second resident to address the council was not in favor of amending the property for residential use, nor were a few others who spoke of their interest in having more services in their neighborhood.
Following these statements, Duggar addressed the council to, again, express his concern over the difficulty previous businesses on the property faced before inevitably closing up shop.
“We need people to support these businesses — they’re in business for three months, and they (leave) because they can’t make it,” said Duggar.
Duggar further explained how easily housing would fit on the property and how he and the other property owners felt it would be a win-win for the neighborhood.
Steve Breitling, also co-owner of the property, addressed the council to point out his interest in having a property that benefits the community.
“I care about this property and this city, so I want something positive, something that’s going to be successful. I live in the community and pass this property every day,” Breitling said.
Breitling went on to say that when the opportunity arose for residential use, it seemed like a win-win for the property owners and the community.
During the public hearing, only one resident expressed a clear position of being in favor, regardless of the density of the current development being proposed.
“It’s time to see something nice over there. I’m in favor for moving this from segment B to segment A,” said one resident residing across from the property.
A few others expressed interest in commercial, even if the business was not something they would be able to patron. Those opinions seemed to waiver when high-traffic businesses were mentioned.
After the city council adjourned, council members reviewed public comments during a closed working session with plans to hold a second public hearing on July 20.