The Tallassee City Council held a public hearing Sept. 8 regarding the adoption of updates to the Tallassee zoning ordinance and map as recommended by the Tallassee Planning Commission.
The proposed updates would zone a portion of Jordan Avenue that is classified as “small-town mix” and is conditional with a drive-thru permitted in general businesses to a highway commercial zone.
Several attended the public hearing to voice their concerns over the suggested changes. Each speaker was allowed three minutes to express his or her opinion to the council regarding the rezoning ordinance.
Jordan Avenue resident Liz Britt first voiced her opinion at the public hearing,
"Jordan Avenue is a two-lane street. The natural division for a general business classification, we feel like, on Jordan Avenue should be the red light at Friendship Road/Barnett Boulevard. Four-lane Gilmer Avenue has endless possibilities for accommodating general business designations.”
Britt reminded the council of the safety concerns over children who walk to and from school in that area.
"We want you to consider the schoolchildren crossing at the crosswalks down Jordan Avenue, both before and after school,” Britt said. “Can you imagine your children negating the traffic at a crosswalk located at a fast food place or other businesses allowed under general business? This is a safety issue. You must protect our children.”
Britt asked members of the council to have empathy and consider a compromise that would allow new businesses with some restrictions.
"We would not support a zone classification of this type for your neighborhoods," she said. "We do not quarrel with the street being classified as neighborhood business. We prefer residential as all of you are, but even though we have limited opposition to the nature of the business classification, which most of us have reviewed and examined, we can live with it."
Liz Britt's husband Eddie Britt also spoke against the proposed updates to the zoning ordinance, explaining he had almost been rear-ended several times turning into his driveway off Jordan Avenue.
Jordanville community member Linda Coppinger also addressed the council with concerns over the proposed ordinance changes.
Coppinger moved back to Tallassee in 1999 looking to purchase an older house to renovate. She found that home in Jordanville, which is Tallassee's oldest neighborhood.
"Jordan Avenue was zoned residential when I moved here," Coppinger said. "The planning commission wants to zone it for commercial. This rezoning is a direct conflict with Tallassee's comprehensive plan, for which (Mayor Johnny Hammock) won an award. This commercial zoning would damage the historic residential identity that the mayor's plan was designed to protect."
Coppinger also pointed out Tallassee has many commercial districts that have not fared so well over time.
The last thing Tallassee needs is another commercial zone since all of our existing commercial zones are stagnate, dying or dead," she said. "Jordan Avenue already has a commercial zone on the south end of the street where there has been no commercial interest at all. It's dead like others, so why create yet another commercial zone and destroy stable residential homes in the process?”
Coppinger pointed out the large number of rental properties in the Tallassee area
"Tallassee needs more well-maintained residential homes such as those on Jordan Avenue,” Coppinger said. “Tallassee has too many trashy slumlord houses with revolving transient renters. Businesses are looking for towns with a stable residential base.”
Linda Mosher spoke in favor of the proposed updates to the zoning during the public hearing, "We need to move forward," Mosher said. "We need to be business-friendly. I have had to turn down businesses that have made me offers and expressed interest because of zoning."
Mosher owns a lot located on Jordan Avenue near the busy intersection commonly known as Five Points. The suggested rezoning would expand the list of potential businesses that would be permitted in that area of Jordan Avenue. According to Mosher, she has had businesses walk away after showing interest in building on the lot she owns on Jordan Avenue because of the current zoning restrictions.
"It was going to take three months to change it to conditional," she said.
Two others from the Jordanville community spoke against the would-be changes to the zoning ordinance. Both community members expressed concerns over high traffic and schoolchildren's safety.
Former-councilmember for Ward 2, Heather Johnson, also spoke against the suggested change to the zoning ordinance, "this classification was considered by the planning commission, but it was rejected because of the conditional allowances that are within, as opposed to the general business."
“Mrs. Mosher said that it took three months, and the company wasn't willing to wait three months. I would ask that you look at that because as we are looking at businesses that are going to be in the center of our community. Do we not want businesses that are going to work with us to be good community partners?”
Jordanville resident William Howard also spoke to members of the council against the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance, "I believe what we are really talking about is destroying the continuity of the neighborhood by putting another store in the middle of that area. If you put another business there, you are asking for all kinds of chaos."
Under the proposed changes to the zoning ordinance, a business with a drive-thru would be permitted in that area of Jordan Avenue.
"Right now, they (a business) would come before the council for a drive-thru," Tallassee building inspector Andy Coker said. "The council would have to vote on it."
If the zoning change is approved by the city council, a business could go before the planning commission and if it met the criteria to build, the planning commission could allow or reject the business proposal without a vote from the city council. In addition to zoning changes, changes to the city map are also proposed in the ordinance update.
The City of Tallassee could expand its reach by recording the annexation of a portion of Highway 14 and Weldon Road that was passed by the council but not recorded in 1973.
The council will vote on the proposed adoption of updates to the Tallassee zoning ordinance and map at the Sept. 22 council meeting.