City officials will be considering a measure to rezone a property on Spring Street, the home of former Spring Street Motors.
McMinnville Regional Planning Commission met Tuesday to consider the request from the property’s current owner, Scottie Keel, who said he wants to continue the current commercial use of the property and renovate it into office spaces. He requested the zone to be changed from Residential-2 to Residential-5.
“Since it’s been a car lot for 50 years, I wasn’t wanting to take it to total commercial but to open the options a little bit to some professional offices,” said Keel.
What seems like an easy request is far from it. The property was used as a car lot for 50 years. However, its use was grandfathered in due to it being in place prior to the city establishing zones. Once the car lot closed, it lost that distinction after one year. The property’s zone is R-2 and it does not allow commercial uses such as a car lot or professional offices.
Planning and Zoning director Nolan Ming added one more hurdle is the property is surrounded by residential -- not commercial -- making the requested change “spot zoning” which is the placement of a small area of land in a different zone from that of neighboring property.
“My recommendation is to deny the request for rezoning,” said Ming. “My recommendation is based on two items: it’s a nonconforming use which lost its grandfather status after a year of not being used as a car dealership, and it’s considered spot zoning which defeats the purpose of zoning.”
Neighbor Kevin Duncan objected to the change due to the wide array of commercial options open to the Residential-5 zone including retail businesses, such as dress shops, florists, gift shops, antique shops, arts and craft supplies, and beauty and barber shops, and professional offices for doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, accountants, engineers, insurance agents, etc.
“I’m totally against it,” said Duncan. “It’s one of the oldest streets in McMinnville. There are a lot of beautiful homes. We’re totally against commercial. As we understand it, Commercial-5 can be just about anything. I don’t doubt what Mr. Keel says but when he sells it, any of the other uses can be placed there. There’s very little parking. I’m just totally against this.”
Commission members David Marttala, chair, Amie Hodges, Jim Brock, Jerry Williamson, Steve Harvey, and Anthony Pelham expressed mixed emotions about the request.
Williamson says someone buying the property would assume it’s commercial but he also understands why neighbors wouldn’t want it.
“This is a tough, tough situation,” said Williamson. “I’m going to be honest with you. If I bought the property, I would have assumed I could use it as an office space or something. I’m just saying how I would feel. Then again, if I were a neighbor, I probably wouldn’t be too happy about that. I think we need to look at every possible option and try to be fair.”
Marttala says maintaining residential is important but there isn’t much difference between the R-2 and R-5 zones.
“On one hand, it’s important to maintain the integrity of the area. As you mentioned, this is one of the oldest residential areas in the community. There are a lot of nice, older houses over there. We have had this issue come up with the church with some areas wanting to move down from the existing R-5 which is up on Spring Street. I have concerns about it. I also went back and looked at the code on R-2 and R-5. If you look at it, there’s really not a lot of difference between those two. The two things that it adds are limited retail businesses and professional offices.”
McMinnville officials established the R-5 district as a “transitional area allowing a mixture of residential and commercial uses that are located, designed, and screened to allow an area of compatible uses existing and functioning in harmony and without conflict.”
There would be a conflict, said Harvey, because there are no other businesses around it.
“I would be very concerned,” said Harvey. “This is the very definition of spot zoning. That’s what it is. There are no R-5 properties contiguous to it. I don’t doubt what Scottie is going to do but actually changing the zoning from R-2 to R-5 when it’s totally surrounded with R-2 and R-3 that could cause a lot of problems later on.”
Marttala agreed. “This could cause us legal problems later on. This sets a precedent.”
The vote failed 4-1. Commission members Jim Brock, David Marttala, Jerry Williamson, and Steve Harvey voted to deny the request, while Amie Hodges voted to allow it. Anthony Pelham, in attendance at the meeting, abstained.
The measure will be sent to the city board for its consideration with a recommendation from the commission to not rezone.