Retirement community rezoning request denied

Plans for a subdivision for older adults have hit a roadblock after Greenwood decided to deny rezoning the land for a neighborhood, and the city is considering buying the property instead to build a park.

Westport Homes planned to build a 130-acre neighborhood for residents age 55 and older on about 40 acres of land east of U.S. 31 between Stop 18 and Worthsville roads. The site has remained undeveloped as neighborhoods sprung up around it in the past.

The Greenwood City Council voted 7-2 against rezoning the property from agricultural to residential use. Council members Chuck Landon and Mike Campbell voted in favor of the rezoning. Earlier this month, the Greenwood Plan Commission voted 6-3 to give the rezoning request a favorable recommendation.

But at the same time, the city council had unanimously approved giving the Greenwood Parks and Recreation Board the permission to pursue purchasing the property, a step required before any negotiations between the park board and the property owner could start.

More than 35 residents attended the city council meeting this week and stood to show their concern about a subdivision being built on the property. Four residents spoke, saying the reasons for the opposition included the need for a city park on this side of Greenwood, concerns about the increase in traffic on already crowded roads, and the impact on the sewer and stormwater systems.

The initial subdivision proposal was to market the homes to residents who were at least 55 years old, but after the council raised concerns that younger residents would move in, Westport Homes agreed to go further and restrict ownership by age. The council approved those changes 8-1.

The concern about younger residents with children living in the neighborhood was that it would lead to more traffic as well as send more children into local schools.

The rezoning request needed to be determined solely on the merits of the request, without considering the possibility of the city purchasing the land for use as a park, city attorney Krista Taggart said.

The council had initially expressed its interest in buying the property prior to learning about the developer’s interest in the land, Campbell said.

“Green space is disappearing in Greenwood everyday,” Randy Goodin said.

A park would be the best use of the property, since no parks are within walking distance for parents and children, said Wendy Murphy, who lives on the southeast side of Greenwood.

Council members gave a variety of reasons they voted against the proposal. Brent Corey and David Hopper said they wanted the rezoning to include larger lot and home sizes so that the new neighborhood would match other nearby neighborhoods.

Plans call for all of the homes to be built on lots at of at least 6,800 square feet and range from 1,440 to 2,000 square feet, Greenwood planning director Bill Peeples said.

The homes proposed for the site would have ranged from $200,000 to more than $250,000, a price higher than the average price of homes in the surrounding neighborhoods, Tuohy said.

Council member Dave Lekse said that a park was the most appropriate use of the space in an area where the city has been lacking in providing that amenity.

“These people deserve a park,” he said.

Now, the future of the site is uncertain. Westport Homes has three options: appeal the rezoning denial in court, file a rezoning request for a different category of residential housing or wait a year to re-submit its request, Peeples said.

The developer would have paid $1.3 million to purchase the land, Westport Homes representative Brian Tuohy said.

Westport Homes hasn’t indicated if it will continue to pursue rezoning the property, he said.

Whether the city will move forward to purchase the property also is unclear.

The parks department has had discussions and believes it can make a fair market value offer on the property, Greenwood parks and recreation department director Rob Taggart told the council Monday night. After the meeting, he declined to provide any further details about the parks department’s plans or interest in the property.

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.