Hernando aldermen approved rezoning for a tightly-compacted upscale community off Memphis Street — with greenspace amenities — Tuesday over and above the objections of one alderman who argued the R-10 zoning classification wasn't allowed under the city's development plan, a guide or blueprint for the city's future development.
The central argument over what zoning classification should be allowed on the tree-shaded property known as Parkview, a 68.8 acre site currently zoned light industrial, pitted the former long-time city planner Bob Barber, now a private consultant, against Ward 4 Alderman Mike McLendon.
Over and over again, Barber reiterated the plan, or guide, which McLendon repeatedly emphasized, allowed for "clustering" as an option on the property, meaning units could be built closely together to eliminate traditional urban sprawl and the clear-cutting of the property in order to keep natural vegetation and treescape.
The property in question is currently zoned light industrial and backs up to Laurelwood subdivision and is located across Memphis Street from Beacon Hill, a similar development to the proposed Parkview.
"This will make for a better design," Barber repeated more than once during his presentation. Barber said the reason his client sought the R-10 zoning designation is to leave walking paths and amenities along with natural vegetation intact. "Twenty percent of the site is committed to greenspace. It would be 2.4 units to the acre. We don't want to develop the site as an industrial site (as it is currently zoned). That would be bad. This is good design," Barber again stated.
However, McLendon was just as determined to point out the city's development plan allowed for an R-12 residential zoning but not an R-10, which Barber sought on behalf of property owner Mike Bailey. The developer on the project is Jerry McBride with Sky Lake Construction, LLC.
McLendon read from Subsection E of the City of Hernando Development Plan, Section 1, Page 5, subtitled "Plan Nonconformance and Plan Amendments."
"If the proposed change does not conform to the plan, the plan must be amended before the requested change in zoning classification can be approved," McLendon read into the record.
McLendon said R-10 is clearly not allowed in what the city's development plan calls from an R-12, R-15, and R-20 zoned site.
"It doesn't conform to the general development plan," McLendon said.
"Let us exercise the clustering option," Barber countered, "rather than subdivide it and grade it flat. We do not want to be sprawl with wall-to-wall, cookie-cutter homes."
"The quality of the development is not on the lot size but how the overall development is put together with amenities," added Barber. "The bigger the lot size, the more you contribute to sprawl."
Barber went on to say that the growth of Hernando is "a well documented fact" and that people are seeking upscale homes on smaller lots. There is also a demand for upscale senior living.
"We would like for half of the site to be age 55 and over restricted," Barber said.
Nearby resident Lynette McCormick, who lives in Charleston Rowe, an adjacent neighborhood with $350,000 and above homes on small, wooded lots, said residents in her development are concerned about their property values being lessened with the proposed development.
McBride took issue with the question and seemed to bristle with the suggestion that anything other than a top quality home would be constructed.
"We build quality houses," McBride said, mentioning the fact that his company builds homes in upscale communities in Madison, Brandon, Tupelo, Oxford and other areas.
"As homeowners, to make us feel good about this, we need to have guarantees that we will not have rental (units) there and how are we going to maintain this (high) quality of life," McCormick said.
McBride said restricted covenants would ensure quality of life.
Another resident, John Shelton, said adequate infrastructure should be in place before Parkview is developed.
Parkview is located off a narrow, two-lane section of Memphis Street beyond the railroad viaduct off U.S. Hwy. 51.
Barber said his clients are committed to widening the section of Memphis Street where the development would be located.
McLendon said traffic is a major issue on that section of Memphis Street.
"I'm concerned about the amount of traffic that will be on that road," McLendon said.
"There is no question that today the roadway can't handle the traffic," said Barber. "It's not equipped to do that but we will improve the road the entire frontage (of the development)." That does not mean the entire length of Memphis Street will be widened, others pointed out.
Ward 3 Alderman Gary Higdon reminded the public that the property is currently zoned light industrial and if an industrial site were located there with heavy trucks going to and from the site, that traffic would be worse.
"I'm more concerned about the traffic if it was developed as an industrial site," Higdon said.
Opponents to the development mentioned the rezoning was turned down by the Hernando Planning Commission.
However, Director of Planning Keith Briley conceded the project's rezoning was turned down without a stated reason, which would make it faulty in court or difficult to uphold if challenged.
"The Planning Commission did not have a reason to deny the proposed zoning change," Briley said.
During a brief recess, the arguments pro and con continued on the issue.
"The (city development) plan should not be on the city's web site if it's not going to be followed," McLendon said.
"The development plan was just that — it's a plan, a guide, not an ordinance," City Attorney Kenneth Stockton said. "It's just a guide."
"It doesn't make it an ordinance just because it's on the web site," Ward 6 Alderman Jeff Hobbs said to McLendon.
"It's a goal or a plan — not an ordinance," Higdon said.
"The clustering of homes was in there as an option," Hobbs said, in his concurrence with Higdon.
Briley recommended approval of the rezoning with staff recommendations.
The project will be required to come back before city officials for review before construction begins and during the building process to ensure it complies with the wishes of city officials.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.