The Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association’s request to rezone a parcel on the southeast side of the intersection of Lions Club Drive and Highway O in Rolla.

Residents of the subdivision Huntleigh Drive in Rolla, which borders the subject parcel, spoke at the public hearing and stated their disapproval of Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association’s request to rezone residential development to the highest intensity commercial use. Residents noted their property’s value would go down if the parcel was rezoned.

Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association requested the parcel have a C-3 Highway Commercial Zoning District in order to develop the site into an office, warehouse, and outdoor storage area for an electrical service establishment.

There was a sales contract processing with Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association and the parcel owners, Rolla City Planner James Shields said at the Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing for the request on Feb. 12. Shields noted that Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association has a priority interest in the property, so they could request the rezoning.

Storage warehouses are permitted in the city’s C-3 Highway Commercial Zoning Districts, Center City Districts, M-1 Light Manufacturing Districts, and M-2 Heavy Manufacturing Districts, Shields noted, and outdoor storage is in harmony with the intent of a C-3 Highway Commercial Zoning District.

“As you can see with this map it’s about 1,200 feet across and 716 feet deep and about 20 acres large,” Shields said. “There are four accessory buildings and a house that are currently not occupied and are to be demolished upon the development of the site.”

Northwest of the subject parcel is about 90 acres of single-family houses, which is buffered between two C-1 Neighborhood Business zoned parcels owned by the City of Rolla, Shields said.

 “As you can see this intersection is at the intersection of two arterials. Most of the neighborhood has been designated as low-density residential on Rolla’s Future Land Use Map (FLUM), and most of that is Rural Residential and R-1 Single Family Districts,” Shields said.

The preliminary site plan for Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association’s requested development included a 2,000 square foot warehouse for trucks and materials for power lines, along with an outdoor storage area for transformers and pole racks. About 15 employees would work from the warehouse throughout the day along with three or four customer service employees in the office, Shields said.

The applicant proposed to keep the existing vegetation on the south side of the property, which is about 60 to 30-feet wide, and a fenced-in area that contains a storage building, a storage warehouse and outdoor storage will be located 20 feet to the north of the existing vegetation, Shields said.

There are a little over 90 aces of single-family homes to the northwest of the proposed development, and “It’s unlikely there will be a direct impact on those homes,” Shields said.

Shields added that existing facilities of similar use have been in the neighborhood for decades. Rolla Municipal Utilities’ facility has existed in the neighborhood since the ‘70s.  However, there are certain aspects of outdoor storage that are incompatible with peaceful and satisfying residential activity, such as noise from the machines and degrading aesthetics that are associated with outdoor storage.

“Proper buffers and screening can mitigate these effects on surrounding, existing and future residential development,” Shields said, so a specific buffer would be required on the south and east borders of the proposed development. The applicant also planned to enclose the outdoor storage and warehouse with a 6.5-foot privacy fence and have the office and parking along Lions Club Drive.

Shields added that Rolla’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan designates the future land use of the subject parcel and most of the neighborhood as low-density residential to accommodate single-family attached or detached housing.

The zoning of the parcel to C-3 is not consistent with the FLUM, but a FLUM amendment that would designate the subject parcel as Community Commercial could reconcile the inconsistency, Shields said.

One of the critical community issues outlined in the Rolla 2020 Comprehensive Plan is the protection of residential neighborhoods from the encroachment of incompatible uses, particularly large commercial uses, and zone C-3 is intended to be located on arterial roads, especially intersections, Shields said.

There would be regular customer and employee traffic associated with the development, and there weren’t any reported pedestrian-related incidents at the intersection.  Rolla’s public works department didn’t foresee any significant traffic issues, Shields added.

There was one official comment from an owner of a large piece of property to the southeast of the subject parcel. The owner stated he would like to see the buildings lined along Highway O, and for the outdoor storage to be behind those buildings, Shields said.

Rolla Planning and Zoning Commissioner Matthew Crowell noted that the parcel is currently zoned Rural Residential and the city’s FLUM designation for the parcel is low-density residential.  

“They want C-3, which is the highest intensity commercial use, and if this was rezoned to C-3 and Intercounty decides they don’t want to go, or they sell down the road, then any C-3 use would be allowed,” Crowell said. “I can’t understand why we would want to put something like that adjacent to residential on all sides.”

Residents of Huntleigh Drive, who attended the public hearing agreed with Crowell, and spoke against the rezoning. Resident, Bryce Crowley, who lives within 300 feet of the subject parcel, said, “I believe my property values won’t stay stagnant I think they will go down. I purchased that house March of last year, so I haven’t been there quite a year.

“RMU has been there since the ‘70s, to the north of RMU is a bunch of multi-family housing, those types of property values aren’t affected as great as single resident values by commercial use, so while they’ve been there since the ‘70s, I believe all those were built after RMU was there.”

Crowley added that a privacy fence doesn’t change the aesthetics.

“It’s a different situation than RMU because there is no housing directly affected by RMU except for people who decided to build their house there, to begin with, so this idea that this is the same or similar I think is untrue,” Crowley said.

Director of Operations and Maintenance for Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association, Doug Lane, spoke on behalf of Intercounty and stated that they would work with the neighborhood and city to increase the buffer to alleviate the concerns of residents.

“I won’t lie to you; there will be noise. Typically our work hours are 7:30 a.m. generally the trucks are loaded and gone by 9 a.m., then they come back in the evening. These are short periods of time,” Lane said.

Poles and transformers would be the only outside storage, while everything else would be inside, Lane said. “Forklifts rarely go outside, so the beeping and things like that are internal.”

Lane said he would work with the neighborhood on any part of the proposed development that is of concern, and stated anyone could contact him at any time.

“A lot of these folks I already talked to and they can contact me at any time,” Lane said. “We don’t sell property, once we buy the property we keep it. We put a facility there, we maintain it, and we keep it neat.”

The public hearing was closed, and the Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission motioned to send the request to the Rolla City Council without the commission’s approval due to the city’s future land use designation of the proposed development’s inconsistency with a C-3 Highway Commercial Zoning District.

“I don’t see how this would fit with the character of the neighborhood. I think this would be detrimental to the people who have homes; certainly they have an expectation,” Crowell stated. “And having their property preserved in a way that respects that, and I don’t think that changing this to C-3 respects those property owners all around this property.”