Kirsten Mustain

Grove Sun

Two hotly contested rezoning requests garnered two different recommendations from the Grove Planning and Zoning Board at a regular meeting Tuesday afternoon in the Grove Community Center.

About 25 citizens attended the meeting, which encompassed two public hearings concerning the fate of tracts of land in Grove's corporal limits.

The first hearing, in regard to a request from Sam Robinson to rezone three adjoining tracts of land located off U.S. 59 behind the Grand Lake Prop Shop, from R-1 (single family residential) to C-3 (commercial), drew outraged homeowners from the neighborhood out to protest.

Neighborhood resident Bob Merciez read from the city’s own Land Development Plan to illustrate his and other residents’ opinion that rezoning the land would go directly against the city’s vision for responsible growth.

Among other things, Merciez cited the ideas set forth in the Land Development Plan that Grove’s harmony with the environment was key to proper development and that the elimination of sprawl and strip development should be a goal for city planning.

Attorney Jim Wallace, who lives just north of the proposed rezoning echoes Meriez’s sentiments.

“This application is totally contrary to the (city’s) plan,” Wallace said. “This falls under incompatible uses, and it is right in the gateway to the city.”

Wallace noted that a 175,000 square foot commercial building, which was featured in Robinson’s plan, would be “better suited to Bentonville, AR at the Wal-Mart complex.”

All of the residents said they had moved to the neighborhood because it was peaceful and the rezoning would harm their property values.

Robinson countered that he would do the development “right” and it would not hurt property values.

P&Z Chairman Judith Read noted that she had a copy of the city’s Land Use Development Plan map and that the parcels of land in question had been designated to remain R-1.

P&Z board member Rollie Cornelson said he felt the rezoning covered “too big a chunk” of property.

“A building that size belongs in a place with commercial development. I don’t think it’s reasonable to rezone that big a chunk,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to deny Robinson’s request with the caveat that they would reconsider if he submitted a new proposal covering less acreage.

The second public hearing was a continuation of a tabled request by Randy Wheeler to rezone a property behind Liberty Storage on U.S. 59 from R-1 (single family residential) to R-2 (duplex residential).

Attorney Scott Rozier, speaking for area residents, said Wheeler’s plan for four town homes was not sufficient to convince his clients that the rezoning would be beneficial.

“The applicant has the burden of proof to justify why this change is necessary,” Rozier said.

Wheeler countered that the change was necessary because, “Nobody is going to want buy single-family residences abutting commercial property.”

He added that his only recourse should the rezoning be denied would be to build low-income housing on the tract.

Rozier noted the irony of Wheeler’s statement in light of the previous public hearing.

Wheeler’s request was granted by a three-to-one vote, with one board member absent and Read voting against it.

The P&Z Board only makes recommendation concerning zoning. Grove City Council will make the final decision.