Members of the Emerson Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously last week to recommend the denial of an applicant’s request to rezone a roughly 7.1-acre parcel along Old Alabama Road and Puckett Road from single-family residential to mixed-use.
The commission, however, did vote unanimously to recommend allowing the same applicant to annex about 4.4 acres out of Bartow County and into the City of Emerson — albeit, with that parcel zoned as single-family residential as opposed to the applicant’s requested mixed-use development zoning.
Applicant Brad Barnett presented plans to the commission earlier this month for a proposed 100-unit-plus townhome development.
Several residents spoke out against the proposal at Thursday evening’s public meeting.
“If you get a situation like this, it’s one person — male or female, I don’t care what color you are — moves in, 20 of their buddies are going to move in and the crime rate goes up,” said Mark Law.
“These will not necessarily be super-expensive, but they won’t be inexpensive little things like that you would find in some other very dense areas,” he said. “I think the price points are going to control that.”
At the Oct. 8 public meeting, he told commission members that the units would sell for $200,000 and up.
Phil Westbrook said he had numerous concerns about the proposed development, including density, traffic, diminished property values and the possibility of school overcrowding.
“I’m not opposed to townhouses or apartments or anything like that, I just think this is the wrong location for this type of development,” he said.
Barnett said that not only would the townhomes not push the local schools to capacity, at full-buildout he estimated the project would generate about $749,500 per year for the system at the current millage rate.
“Aside from the $180,000-$250,000 per year that would go directly into Emerson’s budget,” he said.
Nor did Barnett say the project was striving for maximum density.
“Without a doubt, this will increase the property values,” he said. “If we bring in a whole different group of homeowners into the area, the property values will go up.”
He noted that a portion of the development would be turned over to the local government for use as a City park. He also told the commission that he was willing to sign a “letter of agreeable stipulations” that the development would contain no commercial uses.
Commissioner Jaretta Shaw asked the applicant why he sought to rezone the property under the mixed-use category instead of a residential zoning.
“It allows me to change the lines in-between, the different uses become somewhat fungible in that I can condense them,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to build a pond, I wouldn’t be able to have the green spaces, because to get the density I’d have to use all the property — if I go in with a mixed-use, I’m able to cluster the housing together into a tighter unit and lead to more surrounding space.”
Barnett said he would have to wait until civil engineering could be conducted to have an exact number for how many units could be built on the property. He estimated, however, that the townhomes were unlikely to eclipse 10 units per acre.
The applicant also said he’s already anticipating changes to a concept plan presented to the commission.
“The redesign will be more sales-driven than density-driven, because I can’t build anything that doesn’t look great,” he said.
Commission Chairman Bill Popham told the applicant he spent the better part of four hours fielding phone calls from residents about the proposed project on the preceding Monday afternoon.
He told Barnett that he had several concerns about the project, starting with the impact of the proposed development on the City infrastructure. Popham also said he’s heard from several residents with worries about the proposed project impacting traffic along the Old Alabama Road and Puckett Road intersection.
“That property doesn’t fit the future land-use map the City has come up with,” he said. “In the past, we have looked at the future land-use map as being the guideline of what we’d like to see the way the City advance, based on infrastructure and the roadways and the school system … since I have been on the zoning, we have tried to run parallel with that.”
Popham also said he had concerns about the project’s proximity to a floodplain.
“We want to be fair to you, but we want to be fair to the City of Emerson,” he said.
Barnett noted that the area does have an issue with stormwater.
“The City’s intention was to build a fairly expensive, from what we can discern, water-retention flood area on that lot,” he said. “As part of the plans, I’ve agreed to it, and again, these are things we can write into a letter of agreeable stipulations.”
The Emerson City Council is set to hear a second reading of the rezoning and annexation requests — and vote to accept or deny the planning and zoning commission’s recommendations — at a public meeting scheduled for Nov. 9 at 700 Highway 293.