The Tennesean • May 14, 2008
Worried residents from Gallatin’s three historic districts packed the city’s Planning Commission meeting Monday night. The high attendance was attributed to a recommended zoning change for seven properties along East Main Street, the city’s eastern gateway. Planning commissioners are expected to recommend to the City Council a zoning change for five of seven properties along East Main Street to protect the adjacent historic neighborhoods from future development. Although Dick Dempsey, planning commission chair, who initially had reservations about the proposed rezoning, ultimately supported the proposal, which originally came from the city’s historic district commission.“I don’t like the city rezoning, myself. We've never done it. It doesn't mean we can’t,” Dempsey said.Neighbors in the surrounding historic areas are worried that the forthcoming development – rumored to be a Walgreens or a CVS – could devalue their properties. Concerns about landscaping buffers between the commercial venture and adjacent neighborhoods have also been raised.The zoning classification under consideration is planned general commercial, a more restrictive commercial zone that requires a master plan offering the city more control over landscaping and the kind of businesses and structures that could be included in the commercial strip, which fronts the Woodson Terrace, East Main and Main Street historic districts.Another part of the recommendation was to keep the subdivision boundaries the same for the Woodson Terrace historical district since some homeowners have been concerned about commercial development encroaching into the neighborhood.“We want to make it clearly known that if the end game is to encroach into the historic district, we’re vehemently opposed to it,” Lewanne West told planning commissioners.The zoning change is being offered as a solution for vested residents like Tom Ritchie, who also serves on the city’s historic district commission.“What’s at stake? It’s tourists’ and residents’ first impression of Gallatin from the east,” Ritchie said. “It’s the city’s core of historic properties.”Dan Hoyle, owner of the Elizabeth Allen House, now being used as the administrative offices for drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation center Pathfinders, previously tried to sell his property. The buyer backed out of the deal after discovering the home had a historic zoning overlay.Hoyle is worried that a city-initiated zoning could drive away his current potential buyer.“It can be worked out without these demands,” he said. “We currently have a new contract and we don't want to lose that one.”The zoning oversight of the Elizabeth Allen house – which is one of the seven parcels targeted for the recommended city-initiated rezoning – spurred the public outcry from neighbors in the three historic districts. In 1993, Allen requested a historic overlay on her property and asked that it be listed as a local historic landmark, and both planning commissioners and the City Council approved her request, making the residence the city’s first local historic landmark.However, because no public hearing was held in conjunction with the final approval of the zoning change, the property has reverted to an unrestricted commercial zone. It offers no protection for homeowners in the adjacent neighborhoods, where some homeowners have spent thousands renovating and maintaining historic homes.“Not requiring stringent requirements is just leaving money on the table,” West told planning commissioners. “All anyone has to do is look down the road to Franklin (Tenn.) to see the benefit of design guidelines. We want any structure that is built to blend tastefully with the adjacent neighborhood.”Developer Mark Tarver is spearheading the development deal between the owners of five properties on East Main Street and wondered if the city could put zoning changes on hold.“I’m wondering if this can wait a few months and let me bring together a plan that might satisfy everybody,” Tarver said. “We could meet with the neighboring homeowners. I already know some of their concerns. We could put together a deal that makes everybody happy.”Planning commissioners are expected to make a recommendation to the City Council at 5 p.m. Monday. This meeting is the growth-and-development advisory board’s monthly meeting. It is a week early because of the Memorial Day holiday.