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VOL. 116 | NO. 187 | Thursday, September 26, 2002

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Schools, sewers deciding factor in county expansion

Board contends schools deciding factor in county growth By MARY DANDO

The Daily News

The sleepy, historic community of Lucy, situated between Raleigh-Millington Road and U.S. Highway 51, caused newly elected Shelby County Commission members to flex their political muscle and vote down a development proposal.

First-time Commissioner Bruce Thompson, along with Deidre Malone, David Lillard and Joyce Avery, seem to be sending developers a clear message no more growth approval without a thorough consideration of its social and economic impact.

Describing the Lucy area as a test case and a good place to start, Thompson said, as new commissioners, it was important to set the right note.

Property owner and developer Michael Alexander sought approval at Mondays meeting to change the mostly agricultural zoning of 48.7 acres in Lucy to a single-family residential district.

The development he proposed for the west side of Amherst Road south of School Road would include between 150 and 170 homes of 1,200 square feet and 2,000 square feet in size, costing $130,000 to $175,000.

The city-county Office of Planning and Development and Land Use Control Board recommended approval of the plan with conditions.

Millington is considering annexing Lucy and would provide sewer services to the area, said Dave Adams, OPD principal planner.

The original plans were for RS-8 (8,000-square-foot minimum lots) and when the developer changed the request to RS-10, which is similar to another subdivision in the vicinity, OPD approved the revised plan.

But planners still are concerned about the possibility of overcapacity at nearby Lucy Elementary School, Adams said.

Representing Alexander Enterprises, Stephen Steinbach of Land Development Solutions said the development was a good land use and asked commissioners to approve it, to allow us to move on to the next step.

However, the issue of capacity overload at Lucy Elementary and schools in other areas where developments are already in the works is a very real one, said Shelby County Schools research and planning supervisor Maura Black.

About 3,000 new homes in the Cordova area already have been approved and, once built, will cause overcrowding at Mount Pisgah Middle and Macon Hall Elementary schools, where students already are being accommodated in portable classrooms, she said.

Lucy Elementary is not currently at full capacity, but a federally funded preschool program takes up four classrooms, and a possible 170-home development would place about 48 more students at Lucy, putting the school very near capacity, she said.

Adams said his office has received about 40 letters and 60 signatures opposing the development. Heading the letter-writing campaign is Steve Beckham, who was present at Mondays meeting.

Beckham owns 86 acres across from the proposed subdivision and described the development as starter homes. Although Lucy welcomes development, this is not what they want, he said.

Were not opposed to growth, but we are opposed to uncontrolled growth.

At issue is the high-density nature of the proposal, he said.

The community never received a commitment from the developer concerning the size of houses in the development, and 1,200 square feet to 2,000 square feet was a wild range, Beckham said.

Those questions are what the community is concerned about. The real issue that came up was due to the density of houses. If he had been building 40 houses instead of 174, then the school issue would not have been such a dramatic problem, he said.

The countys $1.4 billion debt came into play during the meeting. Commissioner Joe Ford said he supported the development because it would bring much-needed tax dollars into the countys coffers when the homes were completed.

We cant turn around and reject 170 new homes. If we reject it, theyll just move 5 miles up the road to Fayette County, he said.

Commissioner Michael Hooks said he would vote against the development because, until the county has funding, it does not have the ways and means to build schools.

The school issue appeared to be the deciding factor in other zoning applications before the commission Monday.

A request to rezone a 3-acre tract on the south side of Pleasant Run Road west of Lamar Avenue from agricultural to light industrial got no opposition. Neither did a plan from Kemmons Wilson Inc. to build 100 townhouses on the west side of Appling Road south of Goodlett Farms Parkway, after it was determined it would be an empty nester community.

However, a request by Mike Fahy of Prime Development Group Inc. on behalf of Lee Line Farms to amend an original planned development to allow 181 single-family homes on the east side of Houston Levee Road north of Macon Road got a resounding thumbs-down from the commission.

We either allow development to run rampant or be consistent about the schools. Weve put more kids into the system without a thought of its impact, Hooks said.

Commissioner Marilyn Loeffel, who has a child attending school in the area, said this application went to the heart of the commission.

This speaks to the big picture, she said.

After the meeting, Fahy said he was disappointed with the commissioners decision.

It was a complete surprise and were just considering all of our alternatives right now what else we can do and if the project is still viable. Its a difficult position for us and for the County Commission, he said.

Asked about the possibility of the county imposing impact fees on development, Fahy said it should be considered only in the context of leveling the playing field.

If theres going to be an impact fee for residential, there should also be one for commercial. It should be all or none, he said.

PROPERTY SALES 92 242 2,507
MORTGAGES 108 336 2,943
BUILDING PERMITS 202 643 6,711
BANKRUPTCIES 43 176 1,963