Neighbors were out in force again July 1 to support the Ozark Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation that a potential housing development in southern Ozark be zoned R-1C, requiring larger lots.
But the discussion among the aldermen still wrestling with what planning and zoning recommended and what city staff recommended waxed philosophical.
While the commission recommends zoning designations, the aldermen make the final decision. They struggled with this one. At the crux of the issue is lot size. The property is located on East Bain Street near the Applecreek subdivision, just south of Missouri Highway 14.
The land is currently owned by a trust from Nixa. It is zoned for high-density, multi-family development, meaning apartments or duplexes. The developer asked for a R-1D zoning that would allow for smaller lot size, less than 10,000 square feet. This would allow for the property to be developed into single-family homes. City staff agreed and recommended the change.
After listening to concerns at previous meetings from residents that smaller lot size would adversely affect the property values of the surrounding land, and hesitating to override planning and zoning’s recommendation, the aldermen sent the request back to the zoning commission for another look.
The commission took another look, but came back with the same result.
Ward 1 Aldermen Nathan Posten and John Torgerson, tried to amend the bill to R-1D zoning allowing for smaller lot size—conforming to the developer’s plan with some larger and some smaller lots.
Posten referred to the city’s comprehensive plan. He said he could find no data to support the contention that smaller lot size correlated to depressed property value.
“Are we a government of men or a government of law? “ he asked. “I can find no reason to deny it based on this comprehensive plan. I did my homework. I don’t know how we can say a small lot devalues a big lot.”
Alderman Ted Smith, who represents Ward 2, spoke about differences in subdivisions and supported, to some extent, Posten’s points.
“You can have 10,000-square-foot-lot with a poor house and a 5,000-square-foot-lot with a great house,” Smith said. “Size of the lot does not determine the (property) value. We can’t be afraid of diversity, we must embrace it. We need diversity in Ozark, as Mr. Posten said.”
Torgerson expressed frustration in being constrained by the city’s zoning regulations.
“At some point we have to rethink our zoning,” Torgerson said. “I would invest more time for design guidelines, not lot size. Diversity is important. I don’t think we want to be a community of the same. The proposal to me makes sense.”
However, Ward 3 Alderman Jason Shaffer disagreed.
“I don’t view this as an argument about diversity,” Shaffer said. “I believe in the system.
I am not going to micromanage others. This should be maintained as an R-1C. I am a man of law. This came back from P&Z twice as R-1C.”
Torgerson moved to amend the bill to follow the developer’ plan for a R-1D zoning.
“My intention is to follow the developer’s plan,” Torgerson said.
Smith seconded the motion.
It appeared that the effort might come down to a tie vote with, Mayor Rick Gardner being forced to cast a rare tie-breaking vote. But the motion failed 4-2, with only Torgerson and Posten in favor.
Afterward, the aldermen said they welcomed the spirited discussion.
“I am encouraged by the conversation tonight,” Torgerson said. “It is a good process.”
Torgerson also thanked Planning and Zoning Chairman Chuck Branch, who was appointed to another term, for his efforts.
“I want to thank to Mr. Branch for putting a ton of time in,” Torgerson said.
Ward 2 Alderman Bruce Galloway agreed.
“I want to echo what John said,” Galloway said. “Because I voted against the amendment doesn’t mean I didn’t hear what was said. I’m listening and learning.”
Gardner summed it up.
“I thought I would have to break a tie, but I didn’t,” he said. “ This is the fifth meeting – it is pretty clear that there is merit either way and it would have taken a lot for me to go against planning and zoning. “
Because the bill was on its first reading after coming back from the planning and zoning commission, the final vote on annexing and zoning the property as R-1C is slated for the July 15 meeting.