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Pace Street rezoning discussed
pace street rezoning sign.jpg
Photo provided by Brian Douglas A small sign on Pace Street announced the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting that would potentially affect population density, traffic, water drainage and property values.

A meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday attracted quite a bit of local interest and attention as the board discussed potentially rezoning property on Pace Street for housing units.

Harrison Hale of Woodbridge Homes spoke to the board in relation to an application for a rezoning change that would affect property on Pace Street. Hale said it would improve the “attainability” of housing while still preserving the property value. 

The new zoning would create some control allowing for a “uniform and desirable aesthetic,” Hale claimed. Rachel Kirby and Jim Brock made it known that they had several questions about the potential rezoning changes before they’d even venture an opinion. BZA members expressed concerns about whether the street could handle even basic logistics related to utilities. Kirby wanted to know if the properties would be for sale or for rent. Hale explained they would be individually deeded but admitted he had no price point estimates available at this stage. 

Brock felt that at least a traffic study needed to be done. Further traffic studies aren’t actually a requirement from the city itself, but due to the drastic potential population density issues, Brock felt having an engineer take a look at the property would be advisable. He suggested making sure the city understood how traffic would be affected at different hours as well as whether additional traffic signals might be necessary to mitigate traffic issues. 

Other potential issues brought up by BZA members were storm water and drainage issues affecting the area which were also brought up by some locals who expressed their concerns at the Tuesday morning meeting. Hale said a wet-water conveyance study had already been done, but multiple residents of Pace Street complained about how existing issues related to water drainage haven’t been addressed and are concerned about any extra stresses development might put on the area. 

Carol Rutledge lamented how the area was already beset by heavy traffic, a point brought up by several locals who commented before the board. “Why was this hearing scheduled in the middle of a regular work day when many of the residents who would be affected could not easily attend and engage in this matter?” asked Rutledge. Rutledge also pointed out that she didn’t know about the set meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals until she received a letter a day earlier. 

Jerry Williamson was quick to point out that it was a regularly scheduled monthly meeting and the public notice (which consisted of a small sign on Pace Street) was not compulsory and was undertaken as a “courtesy.” Rutledge reminded board members the area is technically classified as a working-class community which might make attendance during a work day difficult. She questioned why rezoning was appropriate if there was no initial error with the zoning and the characteristics of the area hadn’t changed to an extent that would warrant it. She also gave her input on how rezoning would potentially change the surrounding area for the worst. 

Rutledge and several others were also concerned about upping the population density in the area. The idea of opening up the area with an additional 382 residential units would be, in her opinion, “a disaster.” 

The housing market has changed drastically in the past years in Warren County. Considering the characteristics of the area had not changed, however, residents were concerned the rezoning might be not only unnecessary but potentially harmful to their property values. The high density of a PRD (Planned Residential Development) zoning would heavily increase vehicle traffic in the area along with noise pollution and could potentially impact walkability. Many Pace Street residents also brought up how the traffic issues are already bad enough with tractor-trailers, dump trucks and other large vehicles being regularly sighted in the area. 

Hale admitted that one reason they are appealing for rezoning is simply that they own the property and the development they were interested in pursuing would require the change rather than any notable changes in characteristics or demographics of the neighborhood that would generally require rezoning. 

“I mean, this is a business venture, but that being said, we really do, I really do envision the PRD as being the modern tool that will allow the community as a whole to be a better community. I am not trying to classify us or our community as being better or worse, but as far as the decisions we make, I think it's good to be in a spot where you are better able to control the exterior aesthetics of the overall community. I’m 27. I have a lot of peers that would love to live in housing that’s attainable for them.” Hale pointed to the rising median house prices  since 2010 and national trends toward streamlining zoning.

In response to queries about price points on the properties, Hale admitted he didn’t have a solid estimate at this stage. “I hesitate to throw something out there because I don’t want to look like I’m going back on my word to that being different.”

Overall he stressed they want to make it “as attainable as possible while not sacrificing the quality aspects that need to be there.” Hale also brought up how national trends, evidenced by a bill passed in Colorado and similar bills in Oregon, Washington and California, suggest a move toward streamlining R zoning (residential zoning). In those states no distinctions would be made between R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4 and so on. Hale pointed out it was “probably not going to necessarily come here quickly but that’s just something to be aware of.”

A decision was not made at this meeting.