A resolution was reached after residents of Huntleigh Estates came together in a collective effort to voice their disapproval of Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association's request for the City of Rolla to rezone land that borders the Huntleigh Estates subdivision, to the highest intensity commercial use.
Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association’s proposal would rezone residential land on the southeast side of the intersection of Lions Club Drive and Highway O so the electric utility company would be able to put an electrical service establishment in place — that residents of Huntleigh Estates said they didn’t want in their backyards.
Residents of the subdivision on Huntleigh Drive said the impact of the city passing the proposal for the development of an electrical service establishment would be detrimental to each of their property’s value as the establishment would be adjacent to residential properties on all sides.
Rolla City Planner James Shields had noted at the February public hearing held by the city council that the Huntleigh Estates subdivision was platted in 2004, and the subdivision has been quite successful with 45 out of the 50 lots developed into single-family houses on 12,000 square foot lots.
Shields added that Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association made the request to establish an office, storage warehouse and outdoor storage area for equipment such as poles and transformers, which are not permitted or meant to exist in any zone that is of lower intensity than a C-3 Highway Commercial Zoning District.
The area is also “substantial in size making spot zoning claims weaker," Shields said.
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.
The preliminary site plan for Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association’s proposal included a 2,000 square foot warehouse for trucks and materials for powerlines, 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.
The outcome of the proposal was determined at the Rolla City Council meeting on Monday, March 3, after the Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended the city deny the request on Feb. 12. The reason behind the planning and zoning commission's recommendation was because Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association’s request for the city to rezone rural residential to the highest intensity commercial use was not appropriate since the city’s own future land use designation of the proposed development is inconsistent with a C-3 Highway Commercial Zoning District.
Shields said 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 physical description of the developmental pattern use in Rolla’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan’s Future Land Use Map (FLUM) that guides location decisions by the vision and goals laid out in the comprehensive plan. Shields noted, on the one hand, a FLUM amendment that would designate the subject parcel as Community Commercial could reconcile that inconsistency.
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.
David Reynolds who lives in the Huntleigh Estates subdivision, and recently bought his property, had said that the neighborhood was currently a quiet area and if the city granted the proposal the property values of their homes would decrease, and the noise would increase. Reynolds said to the city council if he had known about the possibility of an electric service establishment bordering his property line, he would have never purchased his home in the Huntleigh Estates subdivision.
“I think your own city planner has somewhere down the line even mentioned that to put a Rural Residential Zoning District up against a C-3 Highway Zoning District is just not a prudent thing to do,” Reynolds said. “Of course it has been mentioned we are concerned about our property values. There are homes in there that are over $200,000, and I just don’t think this is something that should be behind our back yard.”
Reynolds added that residents were concerned about noise because accidents such as poles breaking or transformers blown out do happen, and workers would be in the electrical service establishment anytime day or night replacing things they need.
“My bedroom sits adjacent to their proposal; I think you are going to have a lot of diesel engines out there running and loading equipment,” Reynolds said. “The other thing is the lighting of their establishment in the night, I think they are going to have to put up some security lights, and of course again you are going to have to be looking at lights possibly in your bedroom.”
Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association had proposed a green buffer zone that would be along the south side of the proposed property next to the Huntleigh Estates subdivision with a six-foot privacy fence for mowing purposes.
Reynolds said, “It was mentioned in the planning and zoning hearing that a six-foot fence would be established and we all know that a six-foot fence is not going to hide anything.”
Other residents of the Huntleigh Estates subdivision made statements at both public hearings that echoed Reynolds concerns. Melisa Dillon, who has lived at Huntleigh Estates for two years with her husband and children, said she knew there would be future development on the land in the proposal, but if she knew it was going to be the development of an establishment that is intended for a C-3 Highway Commercial Zoning District, her family would have lived in a different area.
Dillon said at the public hearing held by the Rolla City Council, “We hope that you will also go against this vote, and say no to this because this is not what we want in our backyard, and you asked if anything would be acceptable with Intercounty, and in my opinion there is nothing they can do that would be okay with what they are putting, as far as I’m concerned, in our backyard.”
Doug Lane had spoken at both public hearings on behalf of Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association, and said that residents’ concerns of noise levels are warranted since the establishment won’t be 100 percent quiet, but most of the noise will be from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. when trucks are loading equipment, and when the trucks come back in the evening from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Tractor trailers would drop off supplies at the warehouse, and the electrical service establishment would have a modern building with the larger trucks kept inside the warehouse facilities along with the forklifts, which would rarely be outside.
“Their concerns about lighting if we moved all of these facilities towards Lions Club Drive the brighter lights around the buildings would be directional and focused away from the residential areas,” Lane said. “The poles and transformers would be more towards the center of the property. Those would be low intensity, and they could actually be dimmed on a timer basis after a certain time at night.”
Council member Matthew Crowell asked Lane if Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association had any of their other facilities located in a residential neighborhood, and Lane stated their central office facility is in a residential area in Licking, Mo., but their warehouse is on the outside edge of town because the company outgrew the warehouse.
Lane added they chose the proposed location because the company wanted to be in a city municipal area.
There was a sales contract processing with Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association and the parcel’s owners, and on Monday at the Rolla City Council meeting, it was evident that residents of Huntleigh Estates had their concerns about the proposal heard. The project that was noted as incompatible with the Rolla 2020 Comprehensive Plan’s land use map was withdrawn by Intercounty Electric Cooperative Association.
“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 had 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.”