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LETTER: Morris Grubbs says Dry Cleaners owners taking opposition personally

"It is unfortunate for everyone involved that the owners (of 503 Greensburg ST) did not verify the zoning of the lot prior to purchasing the property.." - MORRIS GRUBBS
Dear Editor,

Since Mr. Gary Corbin in his letter posted March 18th raised the issue of openness and the need for clarification in the matter of the 503 Greensburg Street zone change, here are some clarifying points I wish to offer:

1. The owners of the 503 Greensburg Street lot seem to be taking the opposition to the requested rezoning as a personal affront.

However, my wife and I-and others who have spoken out-are objecting ONLY to the requested zone change and its short- and long-term results: that is, the zone change will allow a light industrial facility to operate with residential property on all sides of it and will open the way for other kinds of commercial activity at that location in the future.

We are taking a stand for what we believe is our right to defend our homes by means of regulated zoning, to protect the value of our residential property, and to preserve the historic character of the street where we live. We are not objecting to having the owners as neighbors in some other capacity, and we certainly are not objecting to a dry cleaners opening in Columbia, as long as the business is located in an industrial or commercial area. (Incidentally, just because some other towns and cities have dry cleaners located in residential areas does not make it a right or wise choice.)

2. It is unfortunate for everyone involved that the owners did not verify the zoning of the lot prior to purchasing the property.

By initially consulting the zoning map in City Hall, they could have avoided the necessity of asking the Planning and Zoning Commission to correct their error. From what we have gathered, when zoning was initially implemented, the lot was zoned residential as a deliberate act of foresight.

In other words, the original zoning would allow for the eventual preservation of the residential neighborhood, once the grandfathered-in commercial shop ceased. The current P&Z Commission had the opportunity to uphold the residential design, but chose, instead, to favor commercialization of an established residential zone. In fact, if the current P&Z Commission had its way-that is, if my wife and I had not strongly objected in the initial public hearing last fall-our residential lot at 501 Greensburg Street would have been rezoned commercial to avoid the issue of spot zoning.

3. As Dr. Roger Smith, co-owner, stated in his letter to the P&Z Commission-a letter that was opened and read at the March 16th meeting, where we were told that NO new testimony was allowed-the owners are requesting the zone change for one reason and one reason only: they wish to expand the building to a size that is more than double the existing shop.

To them, the issue may actually boil down to having the legal right to add on to the existing structure.

To the neighbors, however, and to all those who care about preserving Greensburg Street as a residential street, the issue is about much more than the size of the building. Whereas the owners see the issue as one of gaining legal right for expansion in what may be the short term, we see the issue much more broadly as one about the long-term effects of a permanent zone change that would jeopardize the surrounding residences and further alter the residential character of Greensburg Street.

4. Mr. Waggeners journalistic coverage of the March 16th meeting was fair to both sides.

But if there is something that could have been mentioned in the article that wasnt, it might be the fact that the P&Z members neither acknowledged nor discussed the major concerns that several neighbors and citizens have raised repeatedly about the proposed rezoning.

Among these concerns are:

  1. how the rezoning will affect, in the long term, the character of an established residential area,

  2. how the rezoning will affect the historic value of the neighborhood,

  3. how the rezoning will affect the resale value of the residential property surrounding the lot,

  4. how the rezoning will affect the neighbors quality of life, and

  5. how customers of the proposed high-volume business will be placed in a jeopardous situation as they pull in and out at a location with low visibility in both directions.
In their discussion, the P&Z members chose, instead, to address two points: First, the notion in Dr. Smiths letter (which, again, was not supposed to be heard) that the owners are simply asking the P&Z Commission to grant permission to expand the building and secondly, the fact that spot zoning is "not illegal." The five major points above-which have been brought to the Commissions attention via previous letters and during public hearings-should have been part of the Commissions March 16th public dialogue. Although the Commission members may have deliberated on these issues in private (and I hope they did), the fact that not even one of these five points was addressed in the public forum is unsettling and is a significant part of the untold story.


Morris Grubbs
Related links
To read Gary Corbin's letter, Click here.

To read the original coverage of the P&Z meeting, Click here.

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This story was posted on 2006-03-20 05:50:46
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