The place where people once visited to get a job could now be called home. Warren County’s former employment office could be transformed into apartments.
“When the Department of Labor moved out in June, I began advertising the building for lease or to sell,” said Patsy Green, who owns the property with her husband, Faron. “I have had two calls. One was for a car lot and I knew there would not be sufficient parking for that. The other was for a daycare. That’s it in eight months.”
Green says the lack of interest encouraged her to switch directions, from commercial use to residential use, and explore the possibility of apartments geared toward senior citizens.
Being in a C-1 zoning district, multi-family apartments is a use permitted on appeal if the property owner is granted a special exception before the McMinnville Board of Zoning Appeals. Green made her request Monday.
Planner Jonathan Ward informed board members there are some requirements that will limit how many apartments can be within the building.
“All off-street parking requirements must be complied with,” said Ward. “It requires a minimum of two-and-a-half parking spaces per dwelling unit.”
Also, each apartment has a minimum square footage requirement — 650 for one bedroom, 800 for two bedrooms and 1,000 for three bedrooms.
Ward also says there are “special safeguards” for transforming an existing commercial property into multi-family apartments, including meeting all municipal building and fire codes with the installation of a sprinkler system.
The change isn’t a welcome one for some commercial neighbors.
“I own the building next to them,” said Larry Elliot, who owns 109 Lyon Street. “Without getting into a lot of conversation, I’m against this. We have commercial zoning through there. I’ve talked to the neighbors and while they can talk for themselves, we would like to keep it commercial. I don’t want to be too negative about this.”
Elliot says the area is commercial, except for an existing apartment complex across the street.
“Our business is commercial,” said Elliot. “Everything around there is commercial, except for one thing across the street and I wish it wasn’t there. There again, I respect that. I don’t want to say anything belligerent or anything because I’m not that way. I just feel it’s best for the area that it stay commercial.”
Gary Harrell, who owns Hale’s Cleaning at 103 Lyon Street, wants the property used commercially.
“I would hope that we could kept the buildings on Lyon Street as they are,” Harrell said. “I would be really opposed to changing it.”
McMinnville Board of Zoning Appeals members questioned the existence of duplexes on Spring Street, in close proximity to Lyon Street, which were placed without a special exception.
“Single-family homes and duplexes are allowed in C-1 without a special exception,” said Planning and Zoning manager Josh Baker. “Multi-family is where you cross the line into needing a special exception.”
Board member Jerry Williamson, a real estate developer, says he sees the situation from both sides.
“I can understand the gentlemen’s position of not wanting it,” Williamson said. “I can see both sides, but I don’t think this is the only situation we will have to make this determination on. In my opinion, there is not as much of a demand for this type of property as there used to be.”
Williamson, as well as board members David Marttala, Joey Haston and Jim Brock, approved the special exception as long as it meets all requirements.