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Posted on: June 23, 2020

Enterprise Council nixes residential rezone

By Michelle Mann mmann@southeastsun.com

The rezoning of part of the Byrd Subdivision was denied by the Enterprise City Council at the meeting

June 2.

The council voted four in favor of denying the request to rezone the area at Mamie and Baker Streets in

the Byrd Subdivision from residential to townhouses. Councilman Turner Townsend abstained from voting.

The majority vote against the rezone came after nearly one hour of comments against the proposal from

area residents, attorneys representing them and the three people who were in favor of the proposal.

State-mandated COVID-19 created social distancing guidelines limiting the number of people in the

council chamber at any given time that led to many of those against the rezone watching the proceedings

from the city hall entrance area.

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At issue was a proposed rezone approved by the Enterprise Planning Commission after a meeting April 28

of the land from residential homes to a townhouse district.

Attorney Terry Ellis, representing homeowners opposing the rezone, said that the April 28 public hearing

before the planning commission was limited in attendance by Byrd Subdivision residents because of the

state mandated shutdowns created by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The majority of the occupants of Byrd

Subdivision are in the upper age group at higher risk and most made the decision to not attend the

meeting out in the public and only a few attended.

“It was at that meeting that the zoning ordinance amendment petitioner began to disclose the

developer’s intention not to build customary townhouses, but to chop up the existing lots into smaller lots

of four or five where one or two lots previously existed and to change the current zoning, calling them

‘detached townhouses,’” Ellis said. “This became a game changer.”

“The staff of the planning commission was trying to assure those in attendance, as well as those calling

on the phone seeking information after the meeting, that the rezoning request was good for the

neighborhood.

“The interim director (of the city Department of Engineering Services) directed them to a development off

the bypass known as the Cottages at Woodland Park to see for themselves what was being planned,” Ellis

said. “She said (the proposed construction) would be ‘nice.’

“The Planning Commission was led to believe and led us to believe what was built in the Cottages was

intended for Mamie Street,” Ellis said. “However, when representatives of the developer were contacted

directly, we were directed to Cody Drive to see what was actually intended.”

Ellis showed photographs of the Cody Drive residences to the council which included less than five feet of

separation from eave to eave of each house. “There is more separation in a mobile home park than what

is proposed for Mamie Street. There is more separation in a RV campground than what is proposed for

Mamie Street.

“We now know that the size of lots and yards are not what was represented to the planning commission,”

Ellis said. “The developer has said that the market for these homes is young families with young children.

Where will the children play? Inside the house and in the street? Because there is no yard.”

“This is not just about old people who are opposed to change of any kind,” said Byrd Subdivision resident

Phil Thomas, who said he has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years. “This is not just about somebody

who wants to build a house that’s a little bit different.

“This is about somebody who wants to come into our neighborhood, make a quick profit putting up

property that’s not going to live in our neighborhood,” said Thomas, who was one of seven residents of

the neighborhood who addressed the council. “This is exactly what zoning ordinances were designed to

prevent. There could not be a more incompatible structure to our neighborhood than the ones that are

being proposed here today.

“Every lot in our neighborhood has no more than one home on a lot. Some homes are on two lots,”

Thomas said, adding that the developers propose to put four or five homes on one lot. “Nine families on

what is now two contiguous lots,” he said.

Attorney Merrill Shirley, also representing the residents of the Byrd Subdivision, told the council that

passage of the rezoning ordinance at 101 Mamie Street would be “a grave and drastic change” for the

subdivision and said there is a petition signed by the neighborhood residents against the proposed

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construction.

“The law tells us very clearly that once you get your plan and before it gets passed, you have to go to a

concerted effort of making certain that your plan is guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, justified

harmonious development that must promote health, safety, morals, order, convenience and prosperity,”

Shirley said reading from Page 18 of the city zoning ordinance dated June 2012. “I submit to you that to

pass this motion goes contrary to (the zoning ordinance), it goes contrary to what the people who have

built their homes, raised their families, maintained their property expected when they moved out there.

“Nine structures going on three lots when at the present, erection of homes is either one home to one lot

or a couple of lots,” Shirley said. ‘It’s a grave and drastic change.

“I submit to you the change that’s being requested would be totally against what you, the city, has told

the people of Byrd Subdivision, what everyone has been told—that if you want to move there that we will

preserve it,” he added. “As I tell my children, there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

The council voted 4-0 against the rezoning request, with Council Member Turner Townsend recusing

himself from the vote.

The next meeting of the Enterprise City Council is Tuesday, June 16, in the Enterprise City Hall Council

Chambers. A work session begins at 5 p.m. and a voting meeting begins at 6 p.m. Both meetings are

open to the public.

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