A zoning change for the corner of Jarvis and Bourne avenues passed at Somerset City Council’s Monday meeting, despite concerns from the public, which were acknowledged by councilors and Mayor Alan Keck.
The property was originally zoned for a single-family dwelling, or Residential-1. It was approved to be zoned for businesses as a B-2 property.
One lone council member, David Godsey, voted against the change, while a second, Robin Daughetee, expressed reservations but ultimately voted for the change.
As Godsey explained in the meeting, residents living near the area voiced concerns during a Planning and Zoning forum held last month at the Center for Rural Development.
He said most residents were concerned about what kind of business was planned. There was strong opposition against an original plan which would have seen storage units placed there. However, the owner had presented a new plan during that Planing and Zoning meeting which would have a duplex-style barber shop/beauty shop business.
“Still, everybody that was there [at the hearing] stood up and voiced their opinion that in case they change it and he decides not to build this, and he sells it to somebody else, what could they build?”
However, Godsey acknowledged that with a gas station and convenience store nearby, it’s hard to argue that the area wouldn’t be good for businesses.
He then pointed out that the neighbor next door to the property in question had also requested a zone change.
Mayor Keck and Councilor Daughetee recognized that many in the area were worried about the “domino effect” this zone change may have with surrounding property falling into a business zoning category.
Keck then said that, from the perspective of legality and following the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the zone change fell in line.
“Legally, I think the consensus is, they have the right to do it,” Keck said. “I think we’ve got to be careful not to set precedent that just because somebody wouldn’t like something doesn’t mean they don’t have the legal right to be there.”
In other business at the meeting, the council also passed a second zoning change, for 112 Hillcrest Avenue changing it from a B-2 to an R-2, or duplex-style residential lot.
The council also approved the owner-requested annexation of a property on New Haven Lane and to change the speed limit on Jacksboro Street to 25 mph all the way through.
Councilor Daughetee brought up the inconsistent speed limits along that street several meetings ago, pointing out that it was 25 mph through Ferguson’s city limits, switches to 35 mph, then switches back to 25 mph as it approaches its intersection with Murphy Avenue.
At this meeting, Daughetee brought up that he had spoken with David Hargis, street department director, and there were also plans to place a sign that indicated to drivers that there were hidden entrances on the road. All of this is an effort to make the street safer, he said.
Speaking of the street department, several council members expressed gratitude to the workers of that and all city departments during last week’s winter storm.
Councilor Tom Eastham said he was on the road all the time. “And I have to say, I didn’t have any trouble getting out on the main roads or the city streets during this whole thing.”
He added that it was good for Somerset-Pulaski EMS as well to know that the roadways were mostly clear.
Councilor Jerry Wheeldon added the Somerset Police Department to his commendations, and Councilor Jimmy Eastham said that the departments were “bleeding over” and helping each other, such as gas department workers staying out all night to help with the streets.
Mayor Keck closed the meeting by saying the plan is for the next council meeting to be held in-person at the Energy Center, with the proper COVID-19 measures in place.