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Embattled subdivision plans end

After months of heated meetings, the resignation of the chairman of the Planning Commission, discussions and compromises – the end of the battle by Glenwood Estates residents to block development of six acres adjacent to their subdivision ended not with a shout, but with silence.

The ordinance that would have allowed construction of The Cascades “died on the table” when no alderman made a motion for a vote on the matter during the city council meeting Monday.

Mayor Bill Cypert and aldermen Ed Long, Ann Gilliam, Rick Prentice, Ryan Flynn, Kevin Davis, Angie Jones, Jon Moore and Dallan Buchanan attended the meeting.

Before the meeting adjourned, the council members heard two “Thanks” during the time for public comment for their handling of the matter.

Billy McCarroll, who had acted as spokesman for the Glenwood homeowners opposed to the development was brief. “I’d like to thank you for your consideration of our issue of the [Planned Unit Development]. We appreciate you all listening to us, thank you very much,” he said.

Homebuilder Wendell Gibson remarked, “I’d like to thank eight city council members for doing nothing; absolutely nothing. It’s time for a change. It’s a shame when someone brings something to the table, and no one even has the audacity to put something to the vote.

“So I’d like to make an announcement right now that Wendell Gibson will be running for city council come November, thank you,” he said.

Engineer Tim Lemons, who acted as spokesman for D & J Development, owned by Jessica Wilfong and Derek Wilfong, after the meeting said a decision about what to do next would be made later. The land in question is too valuable, and too centrally located, not to be developed. “It will be developed by someone. It is just a matter of seeing who it will be and what will go there,” he said.

The ordinance that would have opened the way to The Cascades was a re-zoning that would have changed the area from R-1 – single family residential – to PUD – planned unit development. But without the change, the development could not be carried out as approved. The planning commission had approved the plan itself in November 2013.

The fight for the Glenwood homeowners began in September 2013 when they learned of plans to build 42 garden-style homes on the six acre lot adjacent to their subdivision.

McCarroll presented the Glenwood homeowners’ reasons for opposing the development at each planning commission meeting – safety and property values were the key reasons. Without sidewalks in Glenwood Estates, the increase of traffic would be a hazard for everyone who walked, ran or otherwise used the roads in place of sidewalks.

Also, when the original homeowners bought their homes, it was with the understanding that the six acres would be an extension of Glenwood, with the same type building and density.

However, the original developer died before those plans could be carried out.

The homes in The Cascades would be detracting contrast, McCarroll said.

Homes in Glenwood are larger than 2,000 square feet valued at up to $300,000, “or more,” McCarroll said. The Cascades development plans called for 1,300- to 1,600 square-foot homes valued at about $160,000, he said.

Also the density change was drastic, McCarroll said, pointing out that the 45 homes of Glenwood Estates are on 25 acres and, the originally proposed 42 homes would be on six acres.

Procedural questions, damage to roads, noise, and loss of habitat were all brought up as issues.

“We do not want to see the character and the uniqueness of our neighborhood changed by putting 42 small homes on the backside of our subdivision,” McCarroll said at the November planning commission meeting. The quality of life, property values and children’s safety will all be hurt, he said.

Assurances of the purpose of changing the zoning to planned unit development [PUD], addition of an 8-foot brick fence, later reduction of the number of homes to 34, and other changes to the development plans did not satisfy the Glenwood homeowners.

Small homes on small lots were aimed at a specific market of older persons, and some younger persons, who wanted a minimum of landscaping, and other maintenance issues, Lemons said at several meetings.

The PUD designation meant that there were requirements above that of R-1, such a brick veneer, no siding and other requirements that would be in a Bill of Assurance, which would be enforced by a property owners association, Lemons said.

On Monday, Jessica Wilfong spoke to the commission, assuring them of the quality and purpose of the subdivision.

When discussion was finished, Cypert called for a motion to adopt the ordinance, but there was no response from the council members.

After about a 10-second pause, Cypert declared, “Hearing none, it is a dead issue.”

After a few more seconds of silence, someone in the group of homeowners asked, “The ordinance is dead?”

Cypert asked city attorney Jimmy Taylor to explain the approval process.

“No motion. It is just a dead issue. It has to have a motion to be voted up or down. No motion, so it just dies on the table,” Taylor said.

When someone called out, “Then the PUD doesn’t go through,” the homeowners broke out in applause and cheers.

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