Batesville Development

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Come back with better plan, commission tells developer

By Jason C. Mattox

A developer who hopes to put in a massive residential development met resistance at a meeting with the Batesville Planning Commission last Monday afternoon.

The commission voted unanimously to deny the re-zoning request of land owner April Perkins and developer Wesley Thompson, who propose a residential development on 80 acres located north of Lowe’s near I-55.

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Thompson would purchase the portion of the proposed Covenant Crossing development from Alvan Kelly if the plans were approved.

Kelly was represented by his daughter, Perkins, at the meeting.

Commission members voiced concern about the population density that could result from the proposal in violation of the city’s “2030” plan. The zoning change sought by Perkins and Thompson was from C-2 to Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.)

City planning consultant Bob Barber of Hernando, who works with the City of Batesville, explained that the proposed development is all residential and contains no commercial property.

“But the recently approved 2030 plan calls for that property to be zoned for low-density residential,” he said.

Proposed are one section of apartments with 500 units, a section of 124 town homes, a 160-bed retirement home, condos and 151 standard residential lots.

“One of the issues here is the balance of single family housing versus a multiple-family development,” Barber said. “According to the master plan, 200 units should be the maximum apartment count during the first phase,” he added. “And the other phases need to be at least one mile apart.

“This is an important corridor for the future of the City of Batesville,” Barber continued. “I recommend that you give full thought to the multi-family ratios. The density, as we figure it, could accommodate 400 apartment units maximum over the life of the project.”

Barber also expressed concerns about the width of the sidewalks in the proposed development not meeting city standards.

“The sidewalks are noted at three feet wide, but the ordinances call for them to be five feet wide,” he said.

 “I think this is something the commission is going to need to study further before making a decision,” commission chairman Billy Downs said.

Before a motion could be made, Perkins asked to address the commission’s concerns.

“The plan is to build this entire development over the next 10 years,” she said. “We don’t want to see it built out too soon.

“We want this project to be satisfactory to the city and the developer,” Perkins said. “We want to come up with a plan that the city can be excited about now and during the course of the build out.”

Comer explained that the commission needed the revised plans in writing before taking action.

“Your property is at the city’s front door, and I suggest that you go away and come back with more of what you are asking for in writing,” commission member Dr. Richard Corson said.

“As a P.U.D. it is like a city unto itself,” Thompson told the commission. “This is set up so it is something unique and flexible.

“I would like approval of the general concept so we can move on to the mayor and board of aldermen who will make the final decision,” he said as aldermen Teddy Morrow, Bill Dugger and Bobbie Jean Pounders sat in the audience.

“We’re not going to build all 500 apartments at once,” he continued.

Corson reminded Thompson that the major issue is the size of the proposed development.

“You have told us nothing that will help with the density, and that is a major problem,” he said. “I would like to know a legal opinion on the matter.”

Assistant city attorney Colmon Mitchell said the board could recommend approval or denial to the board of aldermen.

“The decision you have to make is whether you are OK with making a decision with incomplete information,” he said.

Corson made a motion to recommend denial based on the current plan.

“I thought the final decision went to the mayor and board,” Thompson said. “Based on the P.U.D. standards, we could have included more units but did not.”

“If I was in your shoes, I would be willing to amend my plan when it was requested prior to this meeting, but you did not,” Comer said.

Thompson then added he would like a meeting with Comer and city engineers.

“We have gone past that point,” she said.

The meeting was adjourned amid Thompson rehashing his plans.