BY SARAH R. GREGORY
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted Tuesday to deny a rezoning request for property on West Main Street, but plans for development of the property will continue and the request may be considered again.
After a public hearing, aldermen voted unanimously to deny the request, with the understanding that current plans to build an assisted living facility on the site could move forward under the property's current zoning, and if necessary, the request could be considered again in the future.
The eight lots at 1610 W. Main St. are owned by Dan Walker and currently zoned for R-2 Medium Density Residential usage.
Walker requested the property be rezoned to B-1 Neighborhood Business usage during a meeting of the Greeneville Regional Planning Commission earlier in the month.
At that time, he explained that plans with an Asheville-based group to bring an assisted living facility to the site were not yet finalized.
Walker said that he was making the rezoning request to allow other types of businesses to utilize the property in the event that the current, unfinalized agreement fell through.
At the Planning Commission meeting, the board heard comments and concerns from the property's neighbors, including members of First Church of God.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning request to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on a 4-3 vote.
Tuesday, the matter was again open for a public hearing.
The Rev. Gerald Rudd, pastor of First Church of God, addressed the board about the church's concerns with the business zoning.
Rudd told the board the church was most concerned with water runoff/flooding and traffic flow in the area.
He said other issues concerned him, such as lighting from signs or potential alcohol sales if a business such a gas station moved to the property.
Rudd provided a letter from the church's Board of Stewards expressing concerns, and photos spanning several years that document a history of flooding in the area.
He said the church was required to build a water retention pond when the church constructed an addition in 2004, and water from the road often moves into that area as well.
"We do not believe that our retention pond can handle any more," he said, citing flooding of the parking lot, lawn or the church sanctuary, as concerns.
He said that the church does support development in the area, including the possibility of an assisted living facility.
Greeneville Building Official Jeff Woods said any type of business built on the site would be subject to a number of regulations concerning drainage and other infrastructure concerns, as well as restrictions on alcohol sales within 200 feet of a church.
"Before any new business is built, they have to submit a site plan to the Planning Commission," Woods said.
The site plan would address those types of issues and is required to be reviewed by the Town's engineer.
"It won't add any problems on top of what they have now [in terms of flooding]," Woods said.
Aldermen agreed that, apart from the rezoning request, flooding on that end of West Main Street during heavy rain events needs to be addressed.
"We want to make this [site development] a positive, not a negative, for the neighborhood," Mayor W.T. Daniels said.
Water Superintendent Laura White was asked if the sewer system in the area was prepared for further development in the area.
White said that area, known as the Pigeon Creek Basin, is currently under a sewer moratorium from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) due to sanitary sewer overflow issues.
The 12-month moratorium was put in place in April.
White explained that TDEC allows for only five overflows per year as part of the permit process.
Overflow occurs when water leaks from the sewer system before it can be treated.
Overflow often occurs around manholes during rain events, particularly if manhole lids are older and not tight enough.
The additional inflow and infiltration backs the system up, resulting in untreated water overflowing onto the ground.
In this case, White said, the overflow issues that resulted in the moratorium actually occurred at the Water Department's pump station.
The system took in excessive rain water and could not pump it fast enough to the treatment plant, resulting in a backup.
However, the way the overflows are calculated present a challenge.
White told aldermen that when rain lasts several days, each day's overflow is calculated as a separate event.
In January, that area had already experienced three of only five overflows allowed per year, she said.
Since that time, she said, the Water Department has been working to reduce overflow issues by replacing a number of manhole covers with newer, water-tight lids.
Sewer permits can still be obtained for the area, she added, but they are considered by TDEC on a case-by-case basis.
Alderman Sarah Webster made a motion to table the business zoning request, as plans for a business in need of such zoning have not been presented.
"It seems like if we approve this today, we're approving something that's not known out there."
The board unanimously voted to table the matter.