Friday, March 26, 2004

Much interest in Barge rezoning


More development is headed to Tyrone.

By a 3-1 vote, the council rezoned the 46-acre tract of land known as the Barge Estate from AR (agricultural residential) to CR-2 (conservation residential) last week. The zoning request brought out a string of concerned citizens from both sides of the fence.

Rochester and Associates, who is developing the land had originally requested an R-48, with one-acre lots, but were denied that in favor of the CR-2, which allows for two-acre minimum lots.

A representative of the developers began the debate by giving the Town Council a list of compromises that had already been promised. Donations for a covered school bus stop, a raised crosswalk and several other requests made at a special town meeting helped to somewhat appease the neighboring community.

Regardless of the agreed conditions, there were more hurdles to jump before the project was to see the light of day. Of those who spoke in favor, John Barge, one of six siblings who own the land spoke first.

“This property was purchased when I was five. We’re not asking to do anything other than what is right,” said Barge, who asserted that no one in his family ever objected to anyone building anything surrounding their property.

“We’re asking the town to work with us. They are not asking to build low income housing. They build nice houses and add a lot of extras.”

Every possible foreseeable problem, from septic tank feasibility to traffic concerns, were discussed in detail. The fact that Tyrone itself sits on a granite base was just one of many daunting facts to nearly derail the project. Blasting through the granite surface would be the only way to install septic tank systems. It was feared that too many septic tank systems would end up seeping into the local water sources.

John Russell, who lives on Laurelwood Road where the development is set to go, spoke about the amount of traffic on Laurelwood, Briarwood, Castlewood and Palmetto Road. “It probably ought to be called the Briarwood Connector. It’s just a matter of time before we become another Hapeville,” Russell quipped to a round of applause.

Other citizens characterized the situation as the “black cloud of developers.”

“Somewhere it’s got to stop,” said Gordon Firth, another distressed local. “God put the earth here. Developers are destroying our wildlife.”

Firth went on to speak in opposition to sewer systems saying he didn't want to drink water that’s been through somebody’s kidneys. “We start this meeting with a prayer, but stab the earth with developers.”

After hearing comments from Town Manager Barry Amos, who pointed out that “growth was inevitable,” the floor was reopened to accommodate Donald Street, who owns property adjacent to the Barge Estate.

“My concern is the size of the homes,” said Street. “I think my property would increase in value with smaller lots. I think it’s a good development, a quality development.”

The Town Council weighed all the comments, adding their own concerns to those already stated. Councilman Lyn Redwood asked about wetland studies that had been done and reminded the developers that the land use map adopted in 1997 was specifically sensitive to conservation.

Councilman Lisa Richardson echoed her remarks and Councilman Paul Letourneau added, “If anyone thinks this property will not be developed in the future, they are naive.”

Councilman Michael Smola was the sole member to vote against the rezoning. “We stood our ground and we ultimately prevailed,” he said of decisions in the past. He also remarked that calls from lawyers he had been receiving in regard to the Barge estate were “highly distasteful.”

“It cost us a lot of money to get to this point,” said developer Ron Mark. “We took R-48 because it was higher than anything else around.”

In the end he settled for CR-2 with conditional approval.

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