By Jason C. Mattox
A potential developer seeking approval of a Planned Urban Development, located on 80 acres behind Lowe’s, withdrew his application for rezoning after meeting with Batesville’s mayor and Board of Aldermen Tuesday afternoon.
City leaders held a public hearing where Planning Commission consultant Bob Barber offered the commission’s findings and concerns.
“Your new comprehensive plan shows a concern with too much multi-family housing,” he said. “The site in question is designated for single family residential, not high density.
“But there is an area for high density residential adjacent to the property,” Barber added.
Barber added that the density was a major concern for the planning commission, citing the PUD plan as calling for 500 apartments.
“According to your general development plan, I would say no more than 250 apartments are needed,” he said.
The consultant also raised a question about traffic concerns.
“At full build out, we would estimate 8,000 daily trips down Lowe’s Road,” he said. “We all know this is a very important corridor for growth in the city. This is very attractive property and compliance with the general land use plan should be carefully followed.”
Barber then proposed allowing a total density of 400 units to include apartments, town houses, single family residential and a nursing home.
“There will also be a need for a traffic study,” he said.
Potential developer Wesley Thompson, who would purchase the property from Alvan Kelly with approval of his plans, told the board that his plans meet the city’s PUD requirements.
“This is not just a general development,” he said. “If we are going to have to follow those, there is no reason for us to be doing a PUD.
“My whole reason is because I wanted to do something unique,” Thompson continued. “I thought this created a circle of life that would let people stay close to their loved ones at all stages of their lives.”
Mayor Jerry Autrey asked Thompson if he could reduce the density and still proceed with his plans.
Thompson offered no answer other than he was following the PUD standards which allowed the density he proposed.
“The density can be shifted to see what you think is appropriate for the city,” Barber said. “It just seems 500 units is a lot to consider. Two hundred and fifty would be a more appropriate figure.”
Autrey proposed Thompson take the matter back to the Planning Commission.
“We’ve had people working on this for weeks, and it needs to go back to them,” he said. “We are first graders compared to the knowledge they have about the project.”
Outgoing Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley made a motion to deny the rezoning request and have the plans taken back to the commission.
“This board has the final say,” Thompson said.
“But we do not have the expertise,” Manley replied.
Thompson this voiced concerns about the project ever being approved.
“Am I wasting my time?” he asked. “If this is going to be denied every time, should I just take it and go somewhere else?”
Ward 3 Alderman Stan Harrison said he could not promise approval of the project even after further discussion with the Planning Commission.
“I can tell you, I’m not going to vote to approve anything right now,” Harrison said.
When the public hearing concluded, Thompson withdrew his rezoning request and told city leaders he would alter his designs for a lower density and return to the Planning Commission.
“I want this to be something the city can be proud of,” he said. “This is going to be a state of the art complex with all of the amenities.”