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City Council approves bulk zoning and annexation

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Murfreesboro Mayor Tommy Bragg was the lone "no" vote on a bulk zoning request that came before the city council Thursday night.

The bulk zoning and annexation request was for 12.92 acres at the Northeast corner of the Franklin Rd. and Veterans Parkway intersection.

"Why are we giving bulk zoning?" Bragg asked Margaret Ann Ely, planning commission representative. The Mayor expressed concern that bulk zoning would give too much power to developers to overrule planning staff recommendations against the wishes of the city council.

"What options does the planning staff have in the future to make sure that we know it will fit into the neighborhood?" Bragg asked.

Ely told the council the property owner did not seek a more specific zoning request because it would require the property owner to submit more detailed development plans.

"What would happen if the developers says, 'look, I have a CF zoning and don't care whether you like it or not,"" Councilman Shane McFarland asked City Attorney Susan McGannon.

McGannon explained the council could reject it, but that it could end up in court because the council has not granted itself that authority.

"The city council will have to decide to accept what the legislature has granted cities in way of right to have final authority over regulating development through site design standards," McGannon reminded the council. "And we haven't done that yet."

Despite the tools at the council's disposal to exercise greater authority and responsibility over development standards, some members cited the need for revenue and said they trust the planning commission with that responsibility.

"We used to do it years ago," Vice Mayor Chris Bratcher said. "And now we're back to blanket zoning. It gives us an uncomfortable feeling, but we trust the staff to do the right thing."

McFarland and Councilman Doug Young both cited newer guidelines within the past three years they say have given the planning commission more teeth.

"I think the staff has done a lot to put guidelines in place," McFarland said. "so I feel comfortable doing bulk zoning."

A major portion of city revenue is generated from sales taxes making large commercial developments attractive to cities with tight budgets.

Property owners hope the size will allow a larger commercial development in the Blackman Community.

"Approximately 10 years ago the Blackman (Comprehensive Land-use) Plan called for this area to be a commercial node," Young said.

Councilmember Ron Washington seconded a motion to pass the bulk zoning and annexation, but added he was voting yes "reluctantly."
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City, Doug Young, Economy, Growth, Ron Washington, Shane McFarland, Tommy Bragg
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July 19, 2010 at 8:26pm
"The city council will have to decide to accept what the legislature has granted cities in way of right to have final authority over regulating development through site design standards," McGannon reminded the council. "And we haven't done that yet."

Sounds like it would be a good idea to do this if it's causing heartburn for some on the council. The Planning Commission is an appointed body, and even if guidelines are stiffer and there are land use plans in place, circumstances sometimes change. How often are land use plans reviewed to determine if they are still suitable for an area?
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