Split board approves rezoning property

CONTROVERSY BREWING – A crowd of people, many residents from Bradford Acres subdivision, address the Humboldt Board of Mayor and Aldermen during a public hearing held Monday, October 26. The city board held the public hearing prior to the final vote on an ordinance to rezone two lots in the subdivision from residential to business, where a local bank want to open a new branch. Later in the board meeting, the board approved the ordinance’s second reading by a vote of 3-2 allowing for the rezoning.

by Danny Wade

Who would have thought rezoning a property would cause such an uproar? The residents of Bradford Acre, that’s who.

During a public hearing held prior to last week’s Humboldt Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, 30-plus people attended to let their voices be heard. Most of those attending were not in favor of two lots in the subdivision being rezoned from R-1 residential to B-2 business.

Eugene Carnal owns a house on the corner of Dowsley Dr. and Central Ave. He also owns the adjacent empty lot where a house burned years ago. Carnal is seeking to have both lots rezoned to business and has a local bank interested in purchasing the property to open a new branch.

Any landowner seeking to have their property rezoned must go through all the procedures. The first step is to get a recommendation for the zoning board. The next step is to have it brought before the city board. Rezoning property in Humboldt requires a city ordinance. City ordinances require approval on two separate readings. A public hearing is required prior to the second reading of the ordinance.

The first reading was approved during the board’s October 12 meeting. Aldermen Monte Johnson and James Shivers voted to approve the ordinance to rezone while Bob Pruett and Leon McNeal voted against the ordinance. Mayor Marvin Sikes broke the tie and voted to approve. Alderman Don Graves was not in attendance during the meeting.

Last Monday night, a large crowd attended the public hearing. Some addressed the board in disapproval of rezoning property within their subdivision.

After the citizens had their time to speak, Mayor Sikes asked if there was someone from the Carnal family that would like to speak. A family member spoke up and explained that they had gone through all the proper steps to have the property rezoned, including following the steps in the subdivision’s covenants of having property rezoned.

Next, a representative from the bank spoke. He said the bank is very community minded and will be a good business citizen of Humboldt. The bank will give back to Humboldt and be involved in the community.

It was explained that the entrance to the bank would be across from Wendy’s on the frontage road and not on Dowsley Dr. in the subdivision or on Central Ave. There would be a fence and greenery to enhance the neighborhood.

Mayor Sikes closed the public hearing and opened the board’s regular meeting, with the rezoning ordinance the first item on the agenda.

Alderman Pruett said he was not against growth and not against the bank but he wants to keep the integrity of the neighborhood. He referred to the property as a cornerstone of the subdivision.

Alderman Shivers noted that the property would be blocked out and said it would not disrupt the neighborhood.

Attorney Floyd Flippin was asked to explain how the subdivision’s covenants allowed property to be rezoned. Flippin said the covenants were detailed as to how the procedure must be done. It took a majority of the property owners to be in favor to change the zoning. It was then filed in the Gibson County Courthouse records.

Flippin noted that the rezoning only pertained to these two parcels of property. It did not change the covenants of the subdivision. Any other property owner in the subdivision seeking to have property rezoned would have to go through the exact same process.

After more discussion, a roll call vote was called for. Alderman Graves was the first to vote yes to approve the second reading of the ordinance followed by yes votes from aldermen Shivers and Monte Johnson. The property is in Johnson’s ward. Aldermen Pruett and Leon McNeal voted against the ordinance, which passed 3-2.

The next agenda item again dealt with rezoning residential property to business. At the request of the landowners, parcels 1 and 2, and 33 and 34 on Fitzgerald Dr. Alderman Johnson is the owner of two of these lots and the others two are owned by the Williamson family.

McNeal said Johnson should not vote on the ordinance and Mayor Sikes agreed since it would be a conflict of interest. Johnson also agreed and said he would not take part in the vote.

McNeal said the ordinance was confusing as to who owns which properties. He suggested tabling the ordinance until the actual owners of the properties are specified.

Donnie Bunton, Humboldt’s city planner said Johnson owns lots 1 and 2, and Williamsons own 33 and 34.

Pruett, who had just voted not to rezone property in Bradford Acres merely yards away from the Fitzgerald properties, said he was okay with voting as long as these are the owners. Pruett then said he cannot be for rezoning.

The vote to approve the first reading of the ordinance was 2-2-1 with McNeal and Pruett voting against, and Shivers and Graves voting to approve, and Johnson abstained. Mayor Sikes once again had to break the tie and voted to approve the ordinance’s first reading.

A public hearing and the second reading will be held during the board’s next meeting.

A third ordinance seeking to rezone property within the Gibson County Industrial Park, which is inside Humboldt city limits from M-1 industrial to B-2 business. This parcel of land includes the road frontage along Central Ave. to just past the main entrance to the industrial park, and accounts for approximately 75 acres.

The Gibson County Industrial Board has already approved plans to convert this property into commercial development and has hired a firm to devise a plan that could include a hotel, restaurants, grocery store and other businesses.

Pruett asked the mayor if this property backs up to Bradford Acres. Sikes said it does but there are not utilities there yet and that part of the project could be the last to developed.

The board unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance to rezone the property. A second reading and public hearing will be held prior to the ordinance is approved.

A fourth ordinance was presented that also dealt with city property. But this was not to rezone property; instead the ordinance would adopt two beer sales districts. One zone would be the Walmart area. The other zone includes the shopping center area, heading south on Central Ave. to the old Walmart building on the east side of the street, and on the west side of Central all the way to Elliott St.

Pruett noted there are already two businesses with beer licenses.

Mayor Sikes said Pruett was right but those businesses have 50-percent of sales for food. He said the city has been contacted regarding opening a sports bar type establishment. Sikes noted it would sell food but not 50-percent of their sales. The mayor said the city board would have to vote to approve a beer license.

Humboldt Police Chief Reynard Buchanan said he had met with the mayor and others and wanted to make the new zones available for other establishments wanting to locate in Humboldt.

A second reading and public hearing will be held prior to the ordinance being adopted.

The board unanimously approved hiring Noah Maxwell as a firefighter for the Humboldt Fire Department. Fire Chief Chester Owens said Maxwell could start work last week and would attend the next academy in February. Alderman Graves gave him a vote of confidence and said, “Put him to work.”

The board also approved Mayor Sikes recommendation to appoint Laura Cano for a 3-year term on the Humboldt Public Library Board. It was noted that Cano is from Humboldt and an officer with the Humboldt Police Department.
Cano was approved unanimously.

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