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by Mark Cheffey
After getting rejected the first time, Matt Courtney got a second chance and the Marion County Commission, Monday, approved his zoning request that will allow him to operate a commercial paint ball facility in the north end of the county.
After his request for rezoning of 30 acres from A-1 agricultural to C-1 commercial by the Marion County Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday, county commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rezoning Monday morning.
The commissioners heard from both sides during the meeting in the packed Palmyra courthouse commission chambers before taking the vote.
Attorney Mark Wassinger said the land owners fear “it will change the character of the area.
“Redds did all the proper things, dotted all their i’s and crossed their t’s and went into an area zoned residential.
“Mr. Courtney could have done the same thing and purchased an area that was already zoned commercial.”
Larry Welch, Eastern District commissioner, motioned for approval after noting Planning and Zoning had reviewed the issue twice and when Courtney came back with a plan, they approved it.
“I don’t understand how you can go against all the neighbors,” said Ryan Ward, a neighboring landowner. “We also have a voice, and it almost seems like planning and zoning had their minds made up before we even got to the meeting.”
He also noted the significant investment he has made in his property and is worried about the value decreasing
James Lemon, the attorney representing Courtney, stressed his client is zoning C-1 not commercial, and that he could be doing a lot worse with his property right now.
Steve Begley, Western District commission, seconded the motion, noting he did not think there was a safety issue and there is a “pretty good natural buffer” around the area.
“I also think the issue is being fueled by emotions, not fact,” he said.
David Lomax, Presiding Commissioner, made it unanimous.
Planning & Zoning makes recommendation
Allowed a second chance to make his case, Matt Courtney went before the Marion County Planning and Zoning Commission last Thursday and was successful in having his zoning request approved for recommendation to the county commission, with plans to establish a paint-ball facility west of Taylor.
After hearing arguments from both sides, including from attorneys hired to represent Courtney’s and neighboring landowners’ interests, the zoning commission voted, 5-1, to recommend rezoning of 30 acres from agriculture to C-1 commercial along Mo. 6 in the extreme north end of the county.
The zoning commission voted to recommend not to rezone the property last March.
However, the commissioners rejected the request, but asked the zoning board to reconsider the request if and when Courtney could show more detailed plans of the paint-ball grounds.
Thursday’s zoning commission hearing, which lasted about an hour, centered on the neighboring property owners contending the zoning change, and the proposed paint ball facility, would not fit in with the growing residential subdivision they live in and would also lower their property values.
In representing the Redd Oak Subdivision developers, Dennis and Jamie Redd, attorney, Wassinger presented signed documents in opposition to the zoning change from 23 adjacent landowners.
He also argued the landowners did not expect to have commercial property next to theirs and host a paint ball facility that would disturb the peaceful neighborhood.
“This request is pulling the rug out from under them. I changes the rules on them,” Wassinger told the zoning commissioners, noting that it can’t be reversed.
“We can’t undo that. We can’t put the genie in the bottle,” he said.
Wassinger said residential property represented from $150,000 to $200,000 in property tax revenue for the county that could be put in jeopardy by the zoning change, and noted that Courtney has no plans that would ad value to his own property.
However, several zoning commission members took issue with the argument the zoning change would cause neighboring property values to go down, noting that property values have been going up for some time, and show no signs of letting up.
“It’s a hard argument in the market we are in,” said Andy Lehenbauer, a zoning commission member.
Joe Kendrick, a zoning commissioner and farmer from the west side of the county, also questioned the property devalue argument, saying that his farming operations had not adversely affected neighboring property values.
Those opposed to the rezoning also pointed out that future commercial uses of the property could even be worse.
In representing Courtney, attorney Lemon contended the landowners’ “fears were speculative” and the zoning change could actually protect property values.
Lemon also said that part of the county is a “developing area” and the proposed rezoning was “an appropriate mix of C-1 and rural residential property.”
After everyone was given an opportunity to ask questions or make comments, Charles Webster, the zoning commission chairman asked for a motion on the request.
John David Bier made a motion to recommend the rezoning and Dick Rupp seconded it.
The two voted in favor of it along with Kendrick, Susan Gard and Denise Damron, while Lehenbauer cast the lone no vote.