Highland News Leader

Highland zoning board OKs apartment complex… again

Over the boisterous objections of neighbors, the Highland Combined Planning and Zoning Board gave its blessing — for a second time — to a proposed apartment complex on the west end of the city.

The board held a special meeting on May 10 to revisit requests from Chris Korte of L&G Real Estate and Brad and Austin Wilken from the Wilken Development Group Ltd.

Korte requested that his property, two 4-acre lots, located at 12328 Sportsman Road and 245 Field Crossing Drive, be rezoned from R1C for single-family residential to MX for mixed use.

While there are no current development plans for the Sportsman Road lot, Wilken Development wants to build a residential complex at Field Crossing Drive location. The complex would have 56 units made up of a combination of two-to three-bedroom apartments and town-homes.

Wilken also presented a site plan at the planning and zoning meeting. According to the Wilkens, the development is meant to be an “upscale” complex, with granite counter tops, vaulted ceilings, a dog park, coffee and tea in an on-site office, drop-off and pick-up dry cleaning services, a green-space, playground, pool and garaged parking, just to name a few amenities.

Neighbors say, “No”

During the four-hour meeting many neighbors raised their objections — and their voices — to the plan.

Neighbors had circulated a petition the last time around with 109 signatures objecting to the development. They increased that total to 213 names on Wednesday. They also showed up at the meeting in force, packing the room.

Autumn Crest subdivision resident and “concerned tax-payer” Lewis Dunning presented the board with the petition.

“A lot of people are kind of upset with this, because it was disapproved,” Dunning said. “Then, ‘the whoever’ from the city granted the requesters a special meeting to try and cram it through again.”

He also felt that neighbors’ questions were not being answered.

“We have questions, and we have received ‘pilly nilly’ answers,” Dunning said.

The objections presented by the citizens included concerns over increasing traffic, the development ruining the image of their community, decreasing property values, accelerated crime rates and increased drainage problems.

William Twyford was one of the many community members who voiced a sense of confusion as to why the board and council would even reconsider the requests after it was voted down.

“Why are we revisiting this dog and pony show?” said Twyford, who has lived in Highland for 48 years. “I have really great pride in this community, but if this thing goes through, it’s going down the toilet.”

Board says, “Yes”

The concerns voiced by the citizens were not enough to change the board’s decision.

Chairman Brad Korte said that the development will help the city grow.

“This type of development is good for this town,” Korte said.

The Jim Gallatin, the board’s vice chairman, said that the board and the citizens needed to address the overall issue of development in the city. He said that Highland development has been lacking. He also pointed out that this particular corridor (Sportsman Road and Frank Watson Parkway) was designated in the city’s comprehensive plan as mixed-use to help the transition between industrial zoning and single-family residences.

Board member Robert Vance echoed Gallatin, saying that the stagnation could be threatening to the community.

“When the community stops growing, it starts dying,” Vance said.

Board member Jay Korte reminded those who were objecting that the duplex complex north of Sportsman Road initially opposed the development of the Autumn Crest subdivision.

“What you are doing now, they were doing, but I think they are OK with what developed,” Jay Korte said. “We need to go into change with an open mind.”

Second time around

This is the second time plan has come before the Planning and Zoning Board.

In April, the Planning and Zoning Board, which is only an advisory body, came to the same conclusion on the proposal; it recommended approval by the City Council, which has ultimate say in all such decisions.

But, during the April 17 Highland City Council meeting, the council voted down Korte’s rezoning request, which rendered the Wilken’s application and request for a special-use permit moot.

According to the City Manager Mark Latham, this was the first time in years that the council had gone against the recommendations of the Planning and Zoning Board. Because of this, City Council sent a letter to the Planning and Zoning Board reaffirming the council’s confidence in Planning and Zoning members’ decision-making abilities.

Because the law allows applicants to ask for their requests to be reconsidered as many times as they would like, the Wilkens and Korte decided to take another shot at getting the development approved.

Brad Wilken, who at first said that the council’s initial decision might have prevented his company from building in Highland in the future, said he was happy his request would be reconsidered.

“We are glad that we have another shot at building this in Highland,” Wilken said.

Brad Korte reminded the Wilkens that, because of this process, they will “be under the microscope.”

The matter will now head back to the City Council. It will likely be on the agenda for the May 15 meeting.