The Rolla City Council had their first reading on a proposed ordinance that would rezone lot two of Poe's Subdivision from a General Retail Zoning District to a Highway Commercial Zoning District.

The Rolla City Council had their first reading on a proposed ordinance that would rezone lot two of Poe’s Subdivision from a General Retail Zoning District to a Highway Commercial Zoning District.

City Planner James Shields informed the Rolla City Council on Oct. 15 that the parcel subject to the proposed ordinance is located in central Rolla on the southwest side of the intersection of 4th Street and Oak Street. 

The parcel is owned by Anthony M. and Susan J Bahr and has been assigned the address of 104. E. 4th St. The agent of the case is Madison Daily, Vice President of Operations for Talema Group LLC.

Shields said that Talema Group owns various companies that produce small electronic components for stereo amplifiers, medical test equipment and industrial battery equipment.  The request is to rezone the lot from a C-2 General Lot District to a C-3 Highway Commercial District.

The proposal prompted questions at the city council meeting of what could transpire in concern to the possibility of rezoning the parcel to C-3, and the potential that the applicants change their mind and sell the parcel. The parcel then could be subjected to numerous other uses permitted under a C-3 zoning district.

The C-2 zoning district is intended for purposes that provide community-wide and personal business services and some onsite production of handcrafted items.  C-3 is intended for businesses that offer a central commercial service to support activities to the community regional significance, and also combine wholesale retail and light manufacturing functions on site.

There is a 2,400 Sq. Ft. metal warehouse built in 2003 on the parcel, and the lot meets all the minimum lot size and width requirements for both General Lot Districts and Highway Commercial Districts, according to Shields.

The lot coverage is currently 22 percent and can go up to 40 percent. There is no recognized current use and it has 14 parking spaces.  The Salvation Army is located adjacent to the parcel along with residential housing.

The proposal is to rezone the land parcel from a General Lot District to a Highway Commercial District in order to permit the use of a wholesale operations, sales office and warehouse combination. The agent currently applied for a permit for operation and proposed a warehouse distribution facility for small electronic components.

Once or twice a month the warehouse will receive around 8 to 12 pallets of products, and there will be roughly once per day outbound shipments, which will be by FedEx or other similar delivery sources. Most outbound and inbound shipments will be done with box trucks, but some may be with a tractor-trailer. Additionally, one employee will work close to 15 hours a week, said Shields.

Originally the parcel was zoned as a M-1 Light Manufacturing District in the ‘40s and then rezoned to a C-2 General Retail District in 2001. The parcel historically served as parking for 102 E. 4th St., which is currently where the Salvation Army is located. In 2003 the warehouse was constructed as a storage shed, but because it was on a separate parcel it may serve as a primary building, said Shields.

In 1971 the surrounding residentially zoned blocks were zoned as a C-1 Neighborhood Business District.  After 2001 the M-1 blocks were rezoned to what is now a mixture of C-3, C-2 and R-3 Multi-Family Districts. Still, most of the blocks are one-family, two-family and multi-family.

One block is two houses surrounded by a site that rents construction equipment. Also, there is a gun store and mini storage office, noted Shields.

“Basically there is a wide range of uses but mostly used for residential, especially for single-family, but mostly zoned commercial," said Shields. "Historically the area has been industrially zoned or commercially zoned, yet never fully repurposed for nonresidential uses."

The analysis from the Rolla 2020 Comprehensive Plan described the Central Core District as a complicated mix of commercial, residential and institutional uses. The plan further states that mixed quality should be encouraged to attract private sector investment, and the renovation and adaptive reuse of underutilized structures should also be encouraged.

The trend is for businesses that do not need major corridors to successfully run their business to locate in residential structures within the Central Core District, states the Rolla 2020 Comprehensive Plan. Further, the city should work towards the redevelopment and consolidation of residential properties to allow new commercial development in the district, which will add to the community’s tax base.

The Rolla 2020 Comprehensive Plan has a map to guide rezoning decisions based on the comprehensive plan. Shields pointed out that the map designates a lot of C-3 surrounding R-3 uses. The analysis states that the immediate surrounding blocks range wide in uses in the area, and the subject block is half apartments and half commercial, noted Shields.

C-2 and C-3 uses are generally associated with truck traffic and heavy traffic and tend to be located along arterials. Truck and heavy traffic can be dangerous as well as a nuisance to residential areas. In addition, outdoor storage is characteristic of C-3 uses and create aesthetic and noise issues for residential areas, said Shields.

“However, the current C-2 district zoning of the subject parcel subjects that parcel to the possible location of uses that are incompatible with residential uses, such as gas stations,” said Shields.

Shields added, ideally in a used base zoning scheme there should be a transition between high-intensity zones to low-intensity zones, and low-intensity commercial office districts should provide offices between the higher intensity commercial zones and lower intensity residential zones.

However taking into consideration the existing mixed-use nature of the area one small parcel being zoned C-3 should have a relatively low increase in the threat of incompatible land use placement relative to current C-3 and C-2 zoning, according to Shields.

“In particular the planned unit developments that exist on the subject block were approved in recent years with the knowledge that C-3 exists on adjacent properties,” said Shields.

One possible implication of this approval is the adjacency between multi-family units and C-3 uses may have been in the past deemed acceptable in certain mixed-use traditional industrial areas of the city.

As far as the intent of the comprehensive plan goes the Central Core District is intended to be mix-use, and the Rolla 2020 Comprehensive Plan shows a future where C-3 uses may surround R-3, and implying prevention of incompatibilities is not a priority in the Central Core District.

The subject block and surrounding blocks are intended to become C-2 and C-3, which supports the ideas conveyed in the comprehensive plan pertaining to the encouragement of the area being transformed into commercial designation consistent with C-3 zoning, said Shields

Lastly, the Rolla 2020 Comprehensive Plan refers to the goal of adaptive reuse, a goal that is consistent with the proposal that accompanies the proposed ordinance to rezone the lot at 104 E. 4th St. from a C-2 General Lot District to a C-3 Highway Commercial District.

“Which is to repurpose a storage shed into a warehouse, which in turn, should add to this community’s tax base, which is also encouraged in the Rolla 2020 Comprehensive Plan,” said Shields.

As far as traffic safety goes and contiguousness goes, C-3 is contiguous and exists adjacent to the west half of the northern lot line of the subject parcel, and the distinction between C-2 and C-3 in terms of traffic generation, is not easily discernible due to the fact that there are uses in C-2 that would produce more traffic than some uses in C-3 and vice versa, noted Shields.

“The size of the parcel is small, so it limits the intensity of the use, and the applicants’ description of the activity, as I described earlier, of one outbound shipment a day should produce more traffic than many other uses permitted in C-2 or C-3, such as gas stations,” said Shields.

The public hearing for the first reading of the proposed ordinance had Edward Tenes of Rolla, who previously lived at 400 N. Pine St. for about six years and has owned the property which is located within 185 feet of the subject property since 1982 speak against the rezoning. 

He told the Rolla City Council his property is an R-3 Multi-Family District surrounded by a C-2 General Retail District and a C-3 Highway Commercial District. Tenes provides low-income housing for college students and other community members.

“My tenants have had to contend with sandblasting and a portable toilet business,” said Tenes. He further expressed concern about what types of businesses might be allowed if the property is rezoned a C-3 Highway Commercial District since 80 percent of the property is zoned residential.

Tenes explained in the past when the portable toilet business put their sign up within a month three of his tenants wanted to move out because they didn’t want that business next to where they lived. Further, the company had trailers parked on the block resulting in tenants having nowhere to park.

Eventually, the tenants moved out. “That is what has happened in the past. My tenants moved out on me, so this worked at a disadvantage,” said Tenes. “When you have a business like the one across the street – a portable toilet rental—it makes it very difficult to keep the units rented."

When voting Tenes asked the Council to consider what type of business could be placed in a C-3 Highway Commercial Zoning District.

Rolla City Council Member, Matthew Crowell, addressed his concern on what could happen under a C-3 zoning of the parcel down the line.

Crowell said, “Just so we are clear the applicants want to use this as a warehouse space, which is why this needs to be C-3, but if they change their mind or sell it, the requirements that it is a warehouse at that point is C-3, so it can be any use that is permitted under C-3.

“It could be just a strong electronics warehouse for the foreseeable future, but it could be used for any permitted use under C-3.”

Currently, no protest petitions have been filed, said Shields, and with no one else addressing the city council, the public hearing was adjourned.