Monroe City Council held the first reading of the ordinance amending the zoning of a 43-acre piece of property that lies to the north of U.S. 2 just east of Woods Creek. The ordinance changes the property’s zoning from Limited Open Space to General Commercial that would allow for numerous land use opportunities that are currently prohibited within the guidelines of the LOS zoning.
The rezone has been heavily opposed by residents who live to the north of the property, as well as members of the local farming community who wish for the current zoning to remain in place.
The property owner, Heritage Baptist Fellowship, has been seeking the rezone for many years; their proposal has been fraught with challenges. When their preliminary environmental impact statement, after being accepted by the city, was deemed inadequate by the hearing examiner in 2012, the church paid for a fuller, more comprehensive study to be completed. A Kirkland consulting firm called Pace Engineers, Inc. performed the EIS, which was completed and presented to council at the Oct. 15 council meeting.
Despite an appeal that the new EIS was also deficient, the hearing examiner ruled on behalf of the property owner and the city of Monroe.
Prior to the ordinance being read, Councilmember Patsy Cudaback informed council that she was not in support of the rezone and would not vote in favor of it. Cudaback cited a 13-page Planning Commission document which listed the commission’s findings and conclusions in support of the rezone.
Cudaback questioned certain aspects of document, stating that she found it, at times, to be subjective. She quoted the document.
“Overall, the city concludes that the benefits of commercial development along the U.S. 2 traffic corridor will positively impact the Monroe community,” read Cudaback.
She addressed council.
“I don’t see any documentation on what exactly that means,” said Cudaback. “Where’s the documentation that shows that that’s going to have a positive impact?”
Cudaback also disputed the document’s assertions that commercial development at that location would create a “gateway focal point” at the eastern entrance to Monroe. She pointed out that while a “gateway” concept has been discussed in the past, there is no conceptual “gateway” design currently being planned or developed.
“It’s infused throughout this document like it’s a sure thing, like we have some kind of gateway concept…and we don’t,” said Cudaback.
“I found that very subjective,” Cudaback continued. “We don’t know what’s going to go there once we rezone commercial. We have no control over that.”
Cudaback concluded her statements by stating that she feels the best possible use of the 43 acres owned by Heritage Baptist Fellowship is to leave it the way it is, zoned as Limited Open Space.
“Why have we spent so much time and energy on rezoning this property? It doesn’t make logical sense to me,” said Cudaback.
The motion to accept the first reading of the ordinance rezoning the east Monroe property passed with a 5 to 1 vote, with Cudaback dissenting and Councilmember Jason Gamble absent.
The second and final reading will take place Dec. 17.