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Church re-plats property off 380

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, May 15, 2013

After a public hearing before a packed house of Victory Family Church members and supporters, the Decatur City Council gave its OK Monday night to a re-plat application for the church’s 30-plus acres off U.S. 380.

But the only person who spoke at the hearing questioned the project.

In fact, of the 46 neighbors notified by the city because they live within 200 feet, four replied in opposition and one was neutral. No one replied, or spoke at the hearing, in favor of the re-plat.

The re-plat itself was a routine item, recommended by city staff and unanimously approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Normally these types of requests are submitted when the property owner has acquired multiple tracts of land over time, and is trying to put all the property under one subdivision with one set of lot lines,” Planning Director Dedra D. Ragland told the council.

The council’s action did nothing more than re-plat a 29.17-acre tract and a 1.119-acre tract into one piece of property, removing the lot lines. Whatever plans the church may have for the property were not addressed by the re-plat request.

Pastor Allen Bates did not return a phone call Tuesday, but a church secretary said they were not ready to reveal any plans for the property.

Mayor Martin Woodruff pointed out to those in the council chamber that the re-plat does not indicate any proposed construction.

“This would be the first step,” Ragland said.

Councilmember Cary Bohn zeroed in on traffic as the neighbors’ main objection.

“The concerns seem to revolve around additional entrances to the property,” he said. “Is that proposed at this point? Will Washburn Street have an additional entry?”

Ragland said the city has no way of knowing that until the church proceeds.

“Until we know what their proposal is, we have no idea how it would impact Washburn Street,” she said. “The staff would be looking at that site plan.”

Written replies to the city’s notice expressed doubt about whatever the church may do.

“They have enough in such a small area,” said one.

“I have to know what they are planning to put on the property,” said another.

One of those who replied believes he knows the plans.

“I do not want an entrance and/or an exit road in front of my house leading to a school that is projected to have 500 students,” he said.

Another neighbor, Becky Taylor, checked “neutral” on her note, but asked, “What is this for? What is being built?” At the bottom of the form she wrote, “How can you oppose or be in favor of something when you do not know what is being done?”

Taylor, who lives across from the property, was the only citizen to speak at the hearing. She asked the council if neighbors would be notified again when the church filed development plans.

The answer was no. Ragland said the site plan review committee is an administrative process, not something that comes before the council.

Taylor said the problem is that trucks use Washburn – a dead-end street – as a “cut-through” to get to U.S. 380.

“The street is already torn up,” she said. “There’s a gate at the end of their property. [The trucks] have completely torn up our street. They have an entry off of 380 and an entry off of Chico. There’s even a little entry off of Mulberry. To me, they have enough entrances as it is.”

City Manager Brett Shannon said the only way the council would get involved again is if the church requests some sort of variance as part of the building process.

Woodruff assured the council that the re-plat request was routine.

“As long as it meets the requirements of the law, this is something we would probably approve,” he said.

Finally, the council did exactly that, by unanimous vote, and the large, well-behaved crowd left the building.

OTHER ACTION

The council also approved several updates to its fee schedule, appointed members to seven city boards, approved a 5K race and Fun Run to be held May 25 by Victory Family Church, and voted to move its regular May 27 meeting to next Monday, May 20, to avoid the Memorial Day holiday.

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