In the battle between developers aiming to meet Warren County’s growing need for more residences and preservationists looking to maintain their quiet neighborhoods, both sides could claim victory Thursday night.
The City-County Planning Commission of Warren County, in a meeting that brought a standing-room-only crowd to the Bowling Green City Commission chambers and lasted nearly six hours, approved a 158-unit subdivision in Plum Springs despite heavy opposition and denied a 236-unit apartment development in Smiths Grove that likewise brought out many naysayers.
Opposition to the Plum Springs development did lead to some compromises, with the original plan for 180 lots being whittled down and other development plan conditions being added to lessen intrusion on neighbors.
In the end, the application by developer Rodney Rogers and property owners Norman and Velma Ehresman to rezone from agriculture to single-family residential 57.2 acres at 2675 Plum Springs Road near Meadowview and McKinney Farms subdivisions was approved 5-1, with commissioner Rick Starks casting the lone dissenting vote.
Rogers, chief executive of Bowling Green’s Stewart Richey Construction, said he expects development of the property to be completed in three to four years.
His development plan calls for homes of at least 1,200 square feet with one-car garages and sidewalks on each side of the interior streets.
Chris Davenport, the attorney representing Rogers, said the development meets an urgent need in a real estate market experiencing a dearth of mid-priced homes.
“These are entry-level homes,” Davenport said. “We all understand the need for these homes, as demonstrated by the success of other neighborhoods in the area.”
But that doesn’t mean the neighbors welcome the development. Eleven residents from nearby properties spoke against the project, with the chief opponent being Mark Guy, who owns property at 2383 Plum Springs Road.
Guy was represented by attorney Tad Pardue, who argued that the development would infringe on the 17-acre tract where Guy has built a track for racing motorcycles.
“My motorcycle facility comes within 15 feet of the development,” Guy testified. “I’m concerned about security and the privacy of my property. If this subdivision comes in, 90% of the reason I bought this property will be gone.”
Guy was joined in opposition by others who said the development will create traffic and drainage problems.
Pardue argued that the development plan doesn’t contain any commitment to preserving a heavily wooded area and wetland areas on the property. Conversely, Davenport maintained that the development complies with the planning commission’s Future Land Use Map and is compatible with adjoining subdivisions.
After hearing from the residents opposed to the development and conferring with Rogers, Davenport did drop the number of lots and agree to forming a homeowners’ association for the development.
Davenport said Rogers also agreed to maintain all healthy and mature vegetation within 25 feet of the property line and to have 25-foot setbacks for all lots adjoining Guy’s property.
Those compromises were enough for the planning commission but not for Guy.
“I just feel like we weren’t treated fairly,” Guy said Friday. “There were a lot of politics involved. I got the impression it was almost premeditated.”
Guy foresees problems when the houses go up next to his property.
“I am still going to do my activities,” he said. “If people move into these houses, it will lead to a neighbors’ feud. There will be ongoing controversies.”
The rezoning will go to Warren Fiscal Court for final approval, but Guy said he is considering appealing the rezoning to Warren Circuit Court.
While the concessions made by Rogers may have helped his development win approval, some changes in the Smiths Grove apartment proposal didn’t sway the commissioners.
Bryan Groce, who last month withdrew his application to develop 288 apartments on 16.725 acres along Stanley Rice Road just outside Smiths Grove, came back Thursday with an altered plan for 236 apartments on 12.6 acres.
Groce and Tennessee-based builder Jeremy Riggs applied for a Future Land Use Map amendment to change the property’s designation from low-density residential to high-density residential and for a zone change from highway business to multi-family residential.
Pardue, representing Groce and Riggs, told the commissioners that this new application addressed concerns raised in June.
In addition to a reduction in the number of apartments, the revised development plan called for such amenities as a swimming pool, sidewalks, dog park and fitness facilities. It also committed the developers to widen Stanley Rice Road to conform to the width of the adjoining Vincent Street.
“My clients took your concerns and addressed them in a way that will make this an asset to the community,” Pardue said.
Pardue also argued that the property’s current highway business zoning could lead to development of a hotel, a gas station or other businesses that could be more intrusive than an apartment complex.
Despite the changes, nearly two dozen Smiths Grove residents showed up to oppose the application.
Attorney David Broderick, representing some of the small city’s residents, did most of the speaking in opposition to the proposed development.
“It’s very clear the Future Land Use Map calls for low-density residential in this area,” Broderick said. “Density and compatibility are substantial issues here.”
In his closing argument, Broderick said: “They’ve shown us nothing to indicate that the Future Land Use Map is wrong.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to deny the FLUM amendment, so the zone change didn’t come up for a vote.
In other action at Thursday’s meeting, Lewis Logan’s application for a FLUM amendment changing the designation for property at 4526 and 4534 Ky. 185 was approved with some opposition.
The commissioners approved Logan’s application in a 7-2 vote, with Starks and Sandy Clark voting no.
The FLUM amendment changes the 1.45-acre property’s designation from agriculture to industrial.
Logan indicated that he plans to come back at a later planning commission meeting with a zone change application that would allow him to operate his tree service business out of the property.