Metro Council approves first reading of revised medium to high density zoning ordinance

Oakstone Land & Capital looks to develop site-built tiny homes like the one shown here in the footprint of the former Lynchburg Wilderness RV Park located off Main Street. It would fall under the proposed medium to high density housing zoning ordinance currently before the Metro Council. (Photo Provided)

LOCAL NEWS — On Monday night, the Metro Council approved the first reading of a revised zoning ordinance placing guidelines on the construction of medium to high density housing in Moore County. The ordinance is a response to a rezoning request from Oakstone Land & Capital who purchased a 23.56 acre lot at 975 Main Street / 571 Winchester Highway in Lynchburg in December 2020. Oakstone plans to build a tiny home community called Whiskey Creek in the footprint of the former Lynchburg Wilderness RV Park.

John Taylor made a motion to vote on the first reading and Bradley Dye seconded his motion. The first reading passed by a 8-4 vote with Houston Lindsey, Bradley Dye, John Taylor, Denning Harder, Amy Cashion, Gerald Burnett, Shane Taylor, and Peggy Sue Blackburn voting in favor and Wayne Hawkins, Keith Moses, Sunny Rae Moorehead and Arvis Bobo voting against. Gordon Millsps, Tommy Brown, and Meghan Bailey were absent.

“R3” zoning on the agenda for the past four months

In the spring of 2021, Oakstone’s Chip Hayes appeared before the Metro Zoning Appeals Board requesting a special zoning exception for the property, which is currently zoned as commercial, according to the State Comptroller’s Real Estate Assessment Data. Hayes originally requested the land be rezoned from commercial to R-1 (residential).

In the May 12 Metro Zoning Appeals Board meeting, Board Chair Keith Moses stated that after speaking at length with Metro Attorney John T. Bobo, he’d concluded that the proposed tiny home community didn’t fit any of Metro’s current residential zoning categories. {To read our complete coverage of that meeting, click here.} This kicked the item back to the Metro Planning Commission, who were tasked with developing guidelines for an appropriate zoning category for projects like the tiny home community, since one did not already exist.

The Metro Planning Commission worked with two different lawyers and leadership in several surrounding counties to develop what would become the original R3 zoning ordinance draft. They developed it in multiple work sessions over the past several month and the draft they presented represented hours of work. On August 17, the Planning Commission recommended the approval of the new R3 – Medium to High Density Zoning to the Metro Council.

The Council approved the first reading by an 11-3 margin with John Taylor, Tommy Brown, Keith Moses, Denning Harder, Amy Cashion, Gordon Millsaps, Arvis Bobo, Bradley Dye, Houston Lindsey, and Shane Taylor voting in favor and Peggy Sue Blackburn, Sunny Rae Moorehead, and Wayne Hawkins voting against. Meghan Bailey was absent from the August meeting.

In September, the item failed on second reading by a 8-5 vote with Shane Taylor, Amy Cashion, Denning Harder, Tommy Brown, and John Taylor voted in favor of the new zoning category and Keith Moses, Gordan Millsaps, Houston Lindsey, Sunny Rae Moorehead, Bradley Dye, Arvis Bobo, Peggy Blackburn, and Meghan Bailey voting against the motion. Wayne Hawkins and Gerald Burnett were absent from the meeting. {To read our complete coverage of that meeting, click here.}

At the October meeting, Planning Commission Chair Ryan Dickert expressed his frustration that council voted down the second reading with no discussion.

“We have to be on a two way street with the Council,” he stated.

The item made it back onto the agenda as a revised R-2A –Medium to High Density Zoning during that meeting. After a lengthy discussion in which Dickert appeared before the Council to address any questions or concerns, the Council voted to amend the new resolution to include two new R-2A requirements: the use of Metro Moore County water and sewer, and the addition of a perimeter fence on three sides to establish property boundaries. After they voted to amend R-2A, the Council then failed to pass the revised R-2A –Medium to High Density Zoning by a 6-6 vote with Gordon Millsaps, Sunny Rae Moorehead, Arvis Bobo, Peggy Sue Blackburn, Meghan Bailey, and Wayne Hawkins voting against and Gerald Burnett, Amy Cashion, Bradley Dye, Denning Harder, Houston Lindsey, and John Taylor voting in favor. Shane Taylor, Tommy Brown, and Keith Moses were absent from the October meeting.

During a lengthy discussion in October, Dickert explained to the Council that the property in question is currently zoned with a special exemption “that goes with it for its life” for RVs or travel trailers. Based on the precedent that the former owner used the property as a 48-site RV Park, Oakstone could now choose to bring in Park Model tiny homes on wheels instead of the site-built homes they’d proposed.

“It is the opinion of the Planning Commission and it makes more sense from a safety stand point, to have a site built structures that are secured by a foundation, versus a tiny home on wheels, which is currently what they can do,” Dickert explained.

During that meeting both Dickert and Metro Mayor Bonnie Lewis explained to the Council that “by law” the item would continue to appear on Metro Council agendas until something is passed. Following the September meeting, Tennessee codes expert and lawyer Sam Edwards and CTAS lawyers met with Metro officials including the Planning Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Historical Commission to train Metro officials on their obligation to work with landowners and to establish appropriate zoning for any development that might arise in Metro Moore County.

The Metro Council will vote on a second reading of the R-2A –Medium to High Density Zoning ordinance during there regular December meeting. There will be a public hearing prior to that meeting on December 20. •

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