Update and Clarification on Land Use Change Proposed for Harding/Trousdale Area

Last week I posted about a proposed change to land use policy that will help encourage commercial rezonings and development around the Harding/Trousdale intersection for years to come. I’d like to share an update, a clarification, and more of my thoughts.

First, I encourage everyone that cares about what this area will look like in the decades to come to attend the virtual community meeting tonight at 6:00 pm. Information on the meeting can be found here. The neighborhood where the proposed community plan change is located opposes the change.

Second, I always want to share correct information that fully states everything that I know and everything that others should know. In last week’s post, I incorrectly stated that Council Member Courtney Johnston was sponsoring the community plan change from T3 Neighborhood Maintenance, which only allows residential zoning, to TR or Transition, which allows offices, residential, townhouses, detached accessory dwelling units (DADUs), daycares, mixed-use, and mid-rise buildings. This was based on that council members sponsor zoning changes (this is a plan change and not a rezoning), and a thread on NextDoor where CM Johnston discusses at length what she can require if there are any changes and that any issues can be handled legislatively, which means through the Metro Council. To change a community plan like is proposed here, only the Metro Planning Commission votes on whether to approve it. It does not go to the council. CM Bob Mendes clarified this when he attended the virtual meeting Thursday night held by the Caldwell Abbay Hall Neighborhood Association (CAHNA). (View other statements by CM Mendes here, here, here, and here.) CM Johnston clarified this on NextDoor on Friday when she also finally posted about tonight’s very important community meeting. She also discussed it during Thursday’s community meeting. During the CAHNA virtual meeting, CM Johnston also finally admitted she owns property in the area for the proposed community plan change. In the NextDoor post she does not admit that she owns property in the proposed community plan change, nor does she deny the property was used for commercial/business uses.

While I wish I would have shared more correct information in last week’s post, I do not regret the post because I hope it spurred action and attention to fight this community plan change. In our area, preserving the character of our area, keeping residential areas as residential areas, and preventing commercial uses from overtaking them are very important. With all the information I had last week and now, I still have serious concerns and I’m opposing this community plan change. Unfortunately, some of my concerns are because our council member has a property that has been (and may still be) used for commercial activity in what is supposed to be a residential area. This is important because this community plan change would help allow similar activity. CM Johnston mentioned several property owners have approached her about allowing similar or even more commercial activity in the area, including a large gas station on the northeast corner of Harding/Trousdale. There are several properties in the area owned by another developer, and one can easily assume that should this community plan change be approved that many other developers will be trying to rezone properties in the area to allow commercial and business activity.

It is very regretful that CM Johnston did not publicly admit that she owned property in the proposed community plan change until I had to bring it up. This should have been disclosed, and she had ample opportunity to do it. While she may not be sponsoring it herself, a property she owns would have benefited from an action Metro was taking that she has sway over and that she is communicating about to the community, and the community should know this.

I went into great detail about CM Johnston owning property that has been and is being used for commercial and business purposes. In a comment on a NextDoor thread she says she is “not operating a business. My husbands business is located at 2201 Dunn Ave.” (CM Johnston owns the property jointly with her husband, so who owns the business doesn’t matter as the property owner is responsible for Metro Codes violations)

Her husband’s business has not always been at 2201 Dunn Ave, both based upon the Metro Codes violations and permits for the property, along with the business’s Facebook page that used to say 702 Harding was the business’s address. Also, there is still a tractor-trailer on the property, which isn’t common for a residential property.

Also in the NextDoor comment, CM Johnston states, “We have a renter in that house now that helping with the renovation as we plan to sell it first of the year.” The timing of selling this property is interesting. The property currently has a “Building Use & Occupancy / Home Occupation, Single Family Residence” permit so the commercial and business activity can perhaps be technically legal. That permit expires in March 2022, which is after the first of the year. For that permit to be extended, Metro law now requires that permits like this require the owner of the property to sign an affidavit stating the property is their primary residence. (Muni Code citation 17.16.250.D.6 ) This property is not her primary residence. So the permit to allow the commercial/business activity expires in March 2022, and it couldn’t be extended because of changes to Metro law, which may or may not be why CM Johnston says it will be sold the first of the year.

I continue to bring this up because a council member owns property that is in a residential area, but a business has been and/or is being operated there for years. The proposed community plan change would help allow similar and more commercial/business activity in what is a residential area. While it is very concerning she did not disclose her property is in the proposed community plan change, it makes it more concerning because commercial/business activity has been and still may be on that property.

CM Johnston says she is neutral on this proposed community plan change, but I hope she opposes it. She should have been opposed it from the moment it was filed and in communications to the developer. In the community meeting Thursday night, CM Johnston said she talked to the developer proposing the change a long time ago. She should have voiced her opposition then. We need to keep the residential areas that we have and preserve our neighborhoods. While this proposed community plan change is along several busy streets, they are still part of residential areas and our neighborhoods. Should it pass, developers for decades to come will try to rezone these areas and push for even more changes to the community plan and then more rezonings. This is the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. I hope everyone opposes this change, and that the Metro Planning Commission does not approve it.

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