P&Z committee passes rezoning, item will move to city for final consideration
The Planning and Zoning Commissioners met Tuesday evening for the second time regarding the rezoning of a certain part of town, which would allow the building of townhouses on Elliott Street. They passed the redistricting in a 3-2 vote.
Like the one back in October, the meeting had points of contention with several voicing opposition to the change. City officials, however, showed to voice their support for the project, including most of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corporation Board and the developer. In total, the meeting had around three dozen people.
The Hearing and vote
BEDC Executive Director Virgil Moore began the public hearing and emphasized the need for housing within Breckenridge’s city limits and gave details of the project.
“These homes will be high-quality structures built on concrete slabs,” Moore said. “[The development] will not be federally subsidized, Section 8 dwellings aimed at lower income families.”
Moore concluded saying the development will provide needed housing within the city and will be able to add to the property tax base for the city. He also said it will enhance the neighborhood it would be built in.
Developer David Stowe also spoke and emphasized they will not be subsidized housing and talked about the area chosen to build the project.
“This fits our needs,” Stowe said. “As far as I’m concerned it's the perfect building spot and we really want to go forward with this project.”
Other people that spoke in favor included a few members from the BEDC board, the Chamber of Commerce and Andy Nauert from New Vision, all echoing support for the project and listing benefits it would bring to the city.
“I was on the job a total of three days when I realized we had a problem with housing here in Breckenridge,” Carrie Holson, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce said. “People are commuting. People are taking their money outside of Breckenridge …. I understand that people want to hold onto their traditions but at the same time I’ve seen the need for expansion.”
Others who showed support echoed the need the city had for a project like this, considering the new businesses that are entering Breckenridge. Others vouched for the developer as an honest person who can be trusted to do the right thing with this kind of project.
Some controversy also occurred at the meeting, with one of the P&Z members not voting. While Elaine Moore, wife of Virgil Moore, abstained due to potential conflict of interest, Randy Hash did not announce he was abstaining and did not vote.
Though, city officials have said when this thing happens, they automatically mark it down as an abstain vote. But this still has not stopped residents at the meeting from drawing ire about the situation, with some saying the vote was illegal. Officials at the city said they did not have an answer as to why Hash did not vote at this time, but said this was within the rules.
Roughly half of those who spoke at the public hearing voiced opposition to the project, including several who live in the rezoned area. Their concerns brought up at the meeting included the loss of the playing field that will come with the project, which was a concern brought up at the meeting prior as well.
Another involved concerns that the project was not a great fit. Most who opposed said they supported a project like this in Breckenridge, but did not think townhouses are the correct project and more specifically, did not support the location.
Resident Gary Trammel, with a notepad, gave an impassioned speech to the room echoing that housing was an issue and urged the city needing to come together to open up Breckenridge for outside businesses. He also said the townhomes project does not meet the needs the city has specifically, calling for more houses to be built instead.
“[Three and four bedroom homes] brings in the families, that keeps them here, that makes Breckenridge grow,” Trammel said.
Deedra Boaz also spoke. Boaz, a teacher at South Elementary, said the lot, even dating back to prior owners before the BEDC, have always meant to keep that lot open as a playing field. She also said there are not salaries within the district that would allow a couple to afford a townhouse at a projected rent over $1,000 a month.
“I’m all for new homes, I truly am,” Boaz said. “But take care of the people you have in your community, your own tax payers. There are probably plenty of places in Stephens County to build townhouses.”
But no other issue has come up against the project more than the concern about the playing field. Those for the project have said there are plenty of other fields for the children of the city to play and practice at. Meanwhile, those against it say those fields are not great substitutes, due to flooding or being rundown.
Resident Sarah Shumate said the area was not ready for this kind of project, saying potholes on the road and the speed in which people drive down Elliott Street make it impractical to put townhouses there at this time. She also added onto the concern that people would not be able to afford the rent. She concluded with vouching for the need for the playing field.
Some also advocated for the project to be built on another slot of land owned by the BEDC, which Moore said would add $280,000 to the project total for sewage and preparation, which he said would make the project impractical and too expensive.
The Townhouses and rezoning
Before the meeting, the area in question was classified under city code as a R-1 dwelling. This meant that townhouses could not be built in the area, as they did not meet the requirements. This created a need for the city to do two things in order to change this. First, they needed to add the definition of what a townhouse was into the city code, which was done at the last city commissioners meeting on Nov. 6.
Next, they needed to reclassify the zone from R-1 to R-1-b, which would permit the building of townhouses in the area. This second item was what the public hearing dealt with, as it was tabled at the prior P&Z hearing due to lack of clarity on the item. Now that the P&Z commission has voted to reclassify it, it will head to the city commissioner for a final vote.
The plan calls for 20 townhouses to be developed on Elliott Street at a cost between $2 million and $2.5 million, with Breckenridge collecting approximately $25,000 from it in taxes annually, and all collective taxing entities within the city gathering about $80,000 per year. Their target demographic will be families and elders within the city.
There is no set timeline yet on when construction will start. In the past, Moore has said in the past it all depends on whether or not the city approves and how fast this is done.
The city will decide on this at their Jan. 2 meeting.