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Zoning debates create headache on Spring St.
Barber shop on Spring Street.jpg
This building on Spring Street has been a zoning headache since it has long been commercial property located in an otherwise residential area.

Should neighborhood businesses be preserved, or allowed to become a thing of the past? 

That was the question facing McMinnville Regional Planning Commission members as they considered the role zoning districts are playing in the inevitable extinction of existing businesses located in areas deemed residential only.

“It eventually does do away with the neighborhood candy store and neighborhood businesses altogether,” said Alderman Rachel Kirby, of McMinnville’s residential zoning districts that allow existing businesses to remain as long as they continue operation. “Those are going and that is tragic. It’s usually that they live there. They know the people. It makes a community strong.”

The city of McMinnville began establishing its zoning districts in the 1950s. Zones were meant to prevent mixing incompatible land uses and to protect property values, among other objectives. Existing land uses that did not conform to the assigned zoning standard were allowed to remain as long as the non-confirming use continued uninterrupted, thus being grandfathered in.

For the last three to four months, commission members have been considering what to do with 625 N. Spring Street, a commercial property located in a residential district that lost its non-conforming status after a business failed to operate there for more than a year – a stipulation set down by the city as the length of time before status is lost. 

Currently owned by Haydee Caballero, the property has been previously used as a Mexican restaurant, grocery store, auto repair business, and bar.

“It was a bar in 2016,” said community planner Katie Kemezis. “In talking to neighbors that was the recollection of when that bar closed.”

This year, Jose Hernandez filed for a business license to operate a barber shop there. However, due to the length of time between when the bar closed and the shop opened, the property lost its non-conforming use – meaning it must now conform to the standards set down for the R-2 zone.

Caballero petitioned the Board of Zoning Appeals to allow his shop as a special exception. Because the R-2 zone does not allow barber shops, even as a special exception, the request was denied. BZA members suggested a zoning change. Caballero petitioned the city to rezone the property to R-5 which is the only residential zone that allows barbershops. Because all the property surrounding it is zoned R-3, the request was deemed spot zoning and was also denied.

“This doesn’t seem fair. There should be something we can do to fix this,” said Planning Commission member Jerry Williamson, of an existing commercial building that cannot be used as a business due to zoning regulations that were established after construction. 

Commission member Connan Jones recommended extending the city’s one-year determination. 

“The only reason we’re here is the arbitrary one year,” said Jones. “Is it possible to amend the code and take out the year? That way they would be reapplying to continue as a non-conforming use?”

Kemezis replied, “The city’s code needs updating. We would have to follow the state guideline, which is actually 30 months. In this case, that still wouldn’t apply. The last business at that location, that we can determine, was in 2016. If we amend it at all, it would have to be to 30 months.”

Williamson motioned to rezone the property from R-2 to R-3, a recommendation that will require approval from the property owner, and change the R-3 zoning regulations to allow barbershops/ beauty shops as a special exception within that zone. 

The motion was amended to limit the number of “chairs” in operation the business can have to two, an effort to control the size of the business operating in an R-3 neighborhood.

McMinnville Planning Commission members unanimously approved the motions. However, Board or Mayor and Aldermen approval is required for rezoning requests and proposed changes to the zoning code.