Metro Council approves first reading of new R3 zoning; public hearing will happen next month

LOCAL NEWS — The Metro Council approved the first reading of a resolution to amend the Metro Zoning Ordinances to include a new R3 ( Residential – Medium to High Density) category last night at the August meeting. The resolution passed 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 meeting.

The Metro Planning Commission recommended the new category after the Oakstone Land and Capital Company applied for a building permit at 975 Main Street to move forward with plans to develop a tiny home community at the former location of the Lynchburg Wilderness RV Park and no current zoning categories fit their plans.

The 23.56 acres lot is currently zoned for A-1 (agricultural/forestry) and Oakstone wanted it rezoned to R-1 (residential) to make room for 83 individual tracts. The project stalled in the May Metro Zoning Appeals Board meeting because a rezoning or variance could not be granted because an appropriate category for the tiny home community did not currently exist in the Metro Zoning Ordinances. That’s when the Metro Planning Commission got involved.

“We had someone apply and we didn’t have an existing standard,” Planning Commission Chair Robert Carrol explained to the Metro Council. “There was no permit we could sell for any single family dwelling less than 800 square feet.”

The Metro Planning Commission worked with two different lawyers and leadership in several surrounding counties to develop the R3 zoning category. They developed it in multiple work sessions over the past several month and the draft before the Council on Monday represented hours of work.

Blackburn gives push back

The main pushback from the proposed resolution came from Peggy Sue Blackburn.

“So let’s say I apply for this R3 and I’ve got 10 acres and I decided I want to put 22 houses on it,” Blackburn asked before being interrupted by Carroll.

“That’s not what’s in here,” he said. “If you’ve read through this you’ll see that wouldn’t be something we’d approve.”

“Why do we need a change on that at all,” Blackburn countered.

“Because we have someone applying for something that we do not have an existing regulation on,” Carroll explained. “We need a standard for that type of community since someone has come to us wanting to do multiple homes on a smaller piece of property.”

“Is that something our community needs,” Blackburn asked.

“Why not,” countered Carroll. “It’s something that’s happening in a lot of communities.”

Land use precedent set by previous owner

Though many Metro Council members focused on whether or not the community wants a tiny home community, there’s actually very little they can do the keep it moving forward in one way or another. The previous land owner, Don Spencer, hosted a 48-site RV Park just off the Lynchburg historic district for numerous years. Based of the land use precedent set by Spencer, the new landowner, Oakstone, could simply bring in a similar number of tiny homes on wheels and avoid the rezoning battle. Metro Moore County could do little to prevent it without inviting a discrimination lawsuit.

Oakstone’s Chip Hayes told the Council that he picked the Main Street site specifically because it previously housed an RV park and already possessed existing utility infrastructure. His vision is to build a community similar to those that Oakstone already owns in Grundy County. To view those tiny home communities, click here.

“We’ve done three of these in the Monteagle area. When we first started doing this, historically, tiny home communities were set up in RV and trailer parks. Those were Park Model homes. We could have gone into the existing RV park here in Lynchburg and done the same thing, but we’ve moved more toward site built homes on permanent foundations at this point. We feel it’s a better product and it’s better for the community.”

Hayes explained that average tiny home in the Lynchburg project would average 500-600 square feet and would be built at an average cost of $300-$600 per square foot.

“I can go over there and put park model home in there now but then you won’t get the property taxes on it and it cheapens the entire project,” he said. “As it currently exists, this project could added as much s half million dollars to your bottom line.”

Mayor Lewis confirms that site built tiny homes will increase property tax revenue in Metro Moore County. She also stated that those tiny homes could also each have their own water and sewer connections. This could increase the Metro Utilities Department sewer customer base from 309 houses to closer to 400 homes and reduce local sewer rates.

Hayes also reminded council members that 90 percent of the tiny homes would be owned by people living outside the county who won’t use local resources or be in the local school system. He also suggested that Moore County raise its occupancy tax to raise even more revenue from those who would rent tiny homes for a temporary stay.

“You guys have a three percent occupancy tax, which is one of the lowest in the state,” he said. “I recommend you raise it. Our customers pay 10 percent in Grundy County. Even if you just raise it to five percent you’d probably generate another $75,000 a year just on our properties.”

Not a rubber stamp

Mayor Lewis told the Council that despite the fact that Hayes and Oakstone wanted the new zoning category so they could move forward with their project, the Planning Commission’s work on the R3 category was far from a rubber stamp.

“The particular company that wants this owns three similar tiny home communities in the Tracy City, Monteagle area but we made sure that nothing in this proposed ordinance was altered to suit Oakstone,” Mayor Lewis told the Council. “They bought the property. They made plans and those plans don’t fit into this R3 as it’s presented to you. They will need to alter their plans to move forward.”

Originally, Oakstone proposed a tiny home community with over 80 build sites. After push back from the community about the density of the project, the company reduced that number. During the meeting, Hayes also stated that he’d meet with many of the surrounding neighbors and offered to add fencing and ample landscaping to protect their privacy and provide a natural sound barrier.

Mayor Lewis stressed that neither she nor the Metro Planning Commission members thought that writing something specifically for Oakstone would have been in the best interest of Moore County.

“We wrote something for Moore County that would be in the best interests of citizens and give guidelines for similar projects in the future,” Mayor Lewis said.

Any resolution to alter the Metro Zoning Ordinances requires three separate readings. The Metro Council will consider the second reading during the regular September meeting, which will take place on Monday, September 20 at 6:30 p.m. There will be a Public Hearing prior to that meeting for public input for or against the R3 zoning category. •

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