EDITORIAL/Bad, bad zoning precedent
County supervisors on Monday set a terrible and dangerous precedent that could make it possible to rezone any property without having to provide any evidence of change in the character of the neighborhood.
In a unanimous decision, supervisors allowed three landowners — one of whom was responsible for hijacking the Gluckstadt incorporation effort —to build a connector road to Church Road for purposes of development, despite pleas from neighboring residents and worries over traffic issues in front of a school.
In order to rezone property, petitioners have to present supervisors with evidence suggesting there was a change in character to the neighborhood and that there is a public need for the rezoning.
For example, agricultural land can be rezoned to residential if surrounded by other residential parcels and there is a need for more housing in an area. That satisfies both a change in the character of the neighborhood and a public need. It's pretty basic.
From day one, the landowners have yet to provide any substantive evidence suggesting there was a change in the neighborhood or there was a public need. And, the supervisors' motion granting the request is laughable at best.
Supervisors suggest the change in the character of the neighborhood is a football field-length addition of a third lane on Church Road. Wow, that's laughable.
And as for the public need — it's to allow the public to get into the proposed development. That's not a public need; it's a developer's need because from day one the landowners have argued they can't attract high-end businesses without the connector road and they would be stuck with lower-quality businesses.
In layman's terms, the public need is for the landowners and developers to make more money.
Less than four years ago, in good faith, area residents agreed to the initial rezoning because they were led to believe the development would build a cul-de-sac and not a connector road.
The supervisors at the time agreed to the rezoning based on those negotiations with the landowners and residents.
The icing on the cake is the requirement for a right-in, right-out heading east on Church Road into the development — a stone's throw away from Germantown High School across the street.
That's never going to work, especially if a Kroger develops there and you have 20,000 daily trips as the landowners' traffic study suggests would occur with retail development.
The traffic is going to go from nightmare to hellish as soon as whatever is built there opens.
The connector problem will be compounded with school traffic and the inability for people to drive the speed limit in the first place. There will be hundreds of teenage drivers on the road and we are putting our faith in people adhering to a right-in, right-out traffic pattern?
Drivers can't even navigate the roundabouts in the county properly, so this is setting up a potential disaster.
There isn't even a silver lining when it comes to the Gluckstadt incorporation.
Surely Ron Hutchinson will drop his appeal now because he got the road he wanted, but the city of Canton piggybacked off his temper tantrum and even if he withdrawals the process will still be drawn out a couple of years.
It's unknown at this time if anybody will appeal the rezoning decision, but the courts have reversed supervisors in other counties for far more evidence than 100 yards of road and the need for "higher-end" businesses.
If the decision is left to stand, we're going to see millions being spent in that one area just to manage traffic. That's millions of dollars that could have gone towards already existing traffic problems and not ones artificially created.
If the Gluckstadt incorporation prevails, at least there will be a Mayor and Board of Aldermen to address the issues better than the Madison County Board of Supervisors can.