By CRISTIN REECE
One downtown business owner got a reprieve Monday after Palestine City Council tabled approving a zoning change that he thinks might have more negative impact on his business than positive.
David Parker Jr., owner of a transmission repair shop on a corner of the courthouse square in Palestine, spoke in opposition of a proposed zone change to the downtown area during a public hearing held on the matter during Monday’s regular council meeting.
City officials have proposed changing the zone classification for the business district surrounding the Anderson County Courthouse from C-3, General Retail Commercial District to CBD, Central Business District.
City Development Director Jeffrey Lyons said the change would help address future parking issues and allow people to reside in the buildings on the square in addition to operating commercial establishments.
“I walked all around the square the day I got the city’s letter (concerning the zone change),” Parker told council members Monday. “My business is the only one that’s going to be affected at all. I been there 24 years and owned the building for two.”
Parker said he is concerned the new zoning classification would limit the salability of his building in the future, if potential buyers were restricted as to what types of businesses could operate within the area.
He also expressed concern with the way the zoning ordinance was worded, specifically how it defined minor and major auto repair; the guidelines he’d have to follow if something were to destroy his building; and how long a business would have to be closed before it’s considered out of business.
“It’s got transmission repair as minor, but muffler work as major,” he said. “It also says I’m not zoned for work like pulling engines — I’m here to tell you, sometimes you have to pull the engine to work on the transmission these days. It’s not like it used to be.
“Also, I’m the go-to guy here,” he continued. “If I come down sick and have to close up for six months I’d lose my right to operate my business under these guidelines. Not to mention if a fire or tornado were to destroy my shop, I wouldn’t be able to rebuild since the new ordinance restricts building size.
“I just don’t know why my business can’t just be cut from the change or why can’t we just reword the ordinance without changing the zoning?”
Lyons said he agreed, some of the definitions within the zoning ordinances were inconsistent.
“This is going to be an ongoing issue, one of many we’ll have to face as we continue (updating the city’s planning and zoning ordinances),” Lyons said.
After several minutes of discussion during the action item portion of Monday’s meeting, council members voted 5-2 to table the issue.
“This is part of the problem with the city’s codes,” Councilman Steve Presley said. “We correct one thing, only to find other problems. We need to rewrite the whole thing.”
Councilman Will Brule agreed, “We can’t do everything at once. We need to feel confident and comfortable making changes.”
Parker left Monday’s meeting after thanking the Council for giving him the opportunity to voice his concerns.
“I think this thing is deeper than any of us thought,” he said with a laugh. “There’s just a lot to have to look at, but I appreciate you hearing me out.”
In a separate zoning ordinance matter, council members approved amending the required height of fences around residential swimming pools within the city limits from 6 feet to 4 feet, after holding a public hearing on the issue. No one from the public spoke for or against the agenda item.
“Our building inspector feels comfortable with this,” Lyons told council members, “and the International Building Code only requires 4 feet. In the interest of staying consistent with the IBC, staff is recommending this change.”
Lyons also told council members his staff have been dealing with pool ordinance violations one case at a time, as they arise.
“Some of these pools just appear overnight,” he said, referencing inflatable, above-ground pools. “Many have no fences and no permits.”
Also on Monday, the council:
• APPROVED a special use permit for a 24-unit assisted living facility in the Paradise Park Addision on U.S. Highway 155.
• APPROVED a residential replat for 305 Dove Ridge Street.
• APPROVED authorizing the city manager or mayor to enter into a two-year agreement with Citizen Observer to provide the Palestine Police Department with the Tip411 service.
• APPROVED authorizing the Palestine Police Department to reinstate its K-9 unit.
• SET a public hearing on the city’s proposed tax rate and 2013-14 budget for Sept. 9.
• CANCELED the public hearing concerning the city’s proposed tax rate included on Monday’s agenda, citing an issue with legal posting of the meeting.
The Palestine City Council meets 5:30 p.m. every second and fourth Mondays of the month in the conference room at Palestine City Hall, 504 Queen St. The public is welcome to attend.
Cristin Reece may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.