HIGHFILL -- After lengthy discussions at both the regular council meeting Sept. 14 and a special council meeting Sept. 16, the council finally approved the rezoning of land for Faith, Hope and Grace Properties LLC from RR-Rural Residential to PUD-Planned Unit Development.
The acreage in question lies east of Mason Valley Road and south of Vaughn Road and includes lands owned by Council Member Toby Lester, who abstained from voting or taking part in the rezoning request.
The rezoning ordinance was passed on three readings with a single vote, and an emergency clause was also passed. The passage was conditioned upon the property developer adding a through street to the development plans to allow a second point of entrance and exit and also to connect to possible future developments adjacent to the property, paving of half a street which is part in Highfill and part in Centerton, and building sidewalks along Mason Valley Road if the city desires and pays for materials.
Discussions at the regular meeting Sept. 14 revealed that, due in part to personnel changes at the city just after preliminary plans were submitted, preliminary plat plans approved by the planning commission had not been reviewed by the city's fire marshal and no preconstruction meeting between the developer and city officials had taken place.
Concerns were raised about the lack of through streets in the development and the amount of traffic the development would generate.
Tim Lemons, engineer for the development, pointed out that the plans met all the city's requirements for planned unit developments. He said plans included approximately 64 lots with duplex-style housing to be built on those lots. He said the original plans provided for a second entrance and exit which would be gated but could be used by emergency personnel.
"I don't like the layout," said Council Member Chris Holland, adding that he would prefer that all streets be through streets -- east and west, and north and south. "I'm opposed to looped streets," he said, adding that he's just one member of the council and others might feel differently.
Though the ordinance just concerned the rezoning of the property, Holland and others expressed concern that the planning commission approved the preliminary plat and that the City Council would not get to consider the plans until the final plat is submitted for approval and then it's too late.
Holland suggested a meeting with the planning commission to review the procedures used for considering plans and hearing the planning commission's input on the development before approving the rezoning request. He said he was not ready to approve the rezoning without that meeting. He also suggested that a representative from ESI, the city's engineering firm for the water and sewer systems, review the development plans.
Complicating the issue was the need for the developer to have rezoning approval so that closing on the property could take place on Monday.
After hearing an analysis of the capacity of the city's sewer system and receiving assurances that the developer was willing to work with the city in regard to the above-mentioned conditions, the council approved the rezoning request but also determined to review its present zones and rezoning procedures, possibly removing the planned unit development zone entirely and using instead different levels of residential zones which specify what types of homes may be built on a property.
In other business, the council appointed Trevor Nelson to fill the unexpired term of the city clerk's post, with him being sworn in following the vote and beginning to take minutes of the meeting.
By resolution, the council also authorized the transfer of funds from the city's Water Revenue Fund to the Fire Equipment Fund; approved a 2021 millage resolution keeping the millage rate at 5 mills; adopted bylaws for the city's planning commission; approved funds to purchase water usage software; voted to fund an administrative assistant position; approved funding for a copier lease agreement; and accepted a water-wastewater audit report.
Mayor Michelle Rieff also reported that the city was moving forward on bond refinance options and expected to bring this back to the council soon, possibly at a special council meeting. She said the refinancing could result in significant savings on interest for the city.
Rieff reminded council members of the upcoming fall festival on Oct. 9, of the upcoming tree giveaway on Oct. 23 from 8 a.m. until noon and of the Trunk or Treat event scheduled for Oct. 24. She said there was a need for someone to coordinate the Trunk or Treat event and asked for volunteers.