Madison, county at odds over rezoning
Madison County supervisors continued a vote to rezone approximately 350 acres near the proposed Reunion interchange on Bozeman Road in order to carve out specific exclusions such as tattoo parlors.
Several residents of Cherry Hill Plantation and neighboring subdivisions joined the city of Madison in opposition to the rezoning off Bozeman Road during a public hearing on Monday.
The land in question is owned by the Minnie J. Bozeman Family Limited Partnership and is currently zoned as a Special Use District (SU-1) that allows for educational institutions, retirement facilities and colleges. The family is wanting to rezone the property to a Highway Commercial District (C-2) that would allow for strip shopping centers, convenience stores, fireworks stands, used car lots and so on.
The matter was recommended for approval by the Madison County Planning & Zoning Commission in a 4-1 vote in February.
Steve Smith, an attorney representing the family partnership, told supervisors that in anticipation of the Reunion Parkway, and ultimately interchange the family is wanting to develop the land for commercial use, citing drastic changes in the character of the neighborhood and a public need.
He repeatedly cited that the county’s 2019 comprehensive use plan has the property marked as C-2.
“This rezoning meets the criteria that this board and this county and this state requires,” he said.
Smith cited the recent addition of Amazon to the Madison County Mega Site west of Canton, an expansion at Nissan about 10 miles away, the Villages at Madison development and other industrial/commercial projects as evidence of the change in character. He also argued exponential growth in the area and county facilitate a need for more commercial developments.
Attorneys for the city of Madison disagree with Smith’s evidence, arguing the rezoning request does not satisfy state law and must be denied.
In a 59-page objection to the rezoning, attorney Michael J. Bentley argued the legal standards have not been met and no “actual proof” of a “substantial change in the character of the neighborhood and a public need” were never presented.
Bradley argues in his appeal that rezoning for a future road project doesn’t satisfy the legal requirement of current change, and rezoning can’t be done for things proposed in the future. He also argued that Smith’s evidence consisting of Amazon and other facilities are projects at least 2.5 miles away from the property in question and that the Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled in other rezoning cases that property .5 miles away didn’t change the character of a neighborhood.
Residents of neighboring Belle Terre and Cherry Hill Plantation also argued against the rezoning.
Jane Cory, who lives in Belle Terre, pointed to Colony Crossing in Madison to the south having problems keeping tenants and Germantown Village to the north that hasn’t been built yet.
“When I drive up and down Bozeman, you see churches and a school,” she said. “I don’t see big box retailers. I don’t see major shopping centers.”
She said she is concerned for her property values.
Retired FBI agent Chris Hinkle lives on Cherry Hill Drive and said everybody in the area will be affected if the rezoning were to be approved.
He pointed to the traffic congestion on Gluckstadt Road despite the recent widening of lanes, and argued that until Reunion Parkway is connected to I-55 there will be no relief.
“You want to increase my property values, build police substation,” he said. “Build a church. Build a school. Build a medical complex.”
He said tattoo parlors, bowling alleys and a strip mall won’t increase his property values.
Pam Smith also lives in Cherry Hill Plantation and asked, “When does it stop,” referring to the growth. She said she enjoys the peace and quiet in the neighborhood and that will disappear with commercial developments, adding she can drive somewhere in five minutes to get anything she needs.
Attorneys representing the city of Madison also alleged in their appeal that the county agreed to rezone the property in exchange for donation of right-of-way for the Reunion Parkway project.
Board Attorney Mike Espy spoke at the February zoning meeting where he advocated on behalf of the rezoning.
“I’ve been personally involved with this for a couple of years,” Espy said in February with regards to acquiring right-of-way for Reunion Parkway.
“I personally met with Mr. (Richard) Skinner (of the family partnership) a couple time,” Espy told P&Z members. “We worked out a deal.”
He said he worked with the family partnership and the county received 50 percent of the property as a donation, with the county paying for the other half. Espy said once completion of the ramps to I-55 are added, the family partnership would then write the county a check back for the amount to turn the property into a 100 percent donation.
“We also know that (the family partnership) can’t wait for two years for something to be built,” Espy continued. “(They have) commercial interest in this. I told (Richard Skinner) personally and the (Board of Supervisors confirmed)…that we would do our best to rezone this land so he can begin planning for commercial projects.”
Espy said the county went as far as giving the family partnership copies of the engineering plans so that they could plan for curb cutouts.
The city of Madison contends that it’s a violation of state law to give favorable zoning in exchange for the donation of land, something that Smith and Board President Gerald Steen vehemently denied on Monday.
“I will say, and I’ll speak for myself only…I have never been in a meeting at all where that was brought up,” Steen said.
Smith called the city’s position a “misrepresentation” and said that there was never a quid pro quo agreement in place.
“There’s never been one word, not one sentence about you give us this zoning and we’ll give you this right-of-way,” he said.
Decision continued until June 5
Supervisors initially appeared poised to vote to grant the rezoning request, with Steen saying they met the burden for rezoning.
District 4 Supervisor Karl Banks and District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin were set to vote on a motion before District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter made a motion to table the matter until the next meeting so they could set specific exclusions such as tattoo parlors.
Banks agreed with Baxter’s sentiment and the board then unanimously voted to table the matter until June 5.