Friday, April 3, 2015

City Council to Vote on Billboard Variance

Most readers should be aware of recent attempts by local developers to obtain building height variances for the lot located at at 2635 McCoy Road, directly behind and across from homes on the west end of Trentwood Blvd.

The first variance sought was to build a high-rise extended stay hotel much taller than permitted under our building code. Although this variance has not been formally requested, it is still potentially in the pipeline. Immediately following the community meeting on the proposed hotel, a developer filed for a different height variance, this time to allow the height of a billboard on the property to be increased to 65 feet. You can get a better idea of what this billboard looks like by clicking here.

The Planning and Zoning Board denied the developer's variance request to construct a taller billboard, recognizing that the lighted billboard would now be above the tree line and much more visible. It is not only Trentwood residents who would be able to see this lighted billboard from their homes - it would be in plain view of residents all around south Lake Conway. Furthermore, residents are concerned that approving this billboard variance could encourage a hotel developer to seek the height variance that was so clearly opposed by residents at the recent community meeting.

The P&Z Board's denial was promptly appealed by the developer and the appeal will now be heard by our City Council, which could approve the height variance regardless of the P&Z Board's ruling. According to discussion at the recent workshop meeting, the Council will likely vote on this variance appeal at the upcoming Tuesday meeting, although the final vote could be delayed for various reasons.

In advance of this vote, residents are advised to contact their City Commissioners by email. Such emails will be entered into the public record and considered at the hearing, along with any public comments made at the hearing. Here is one such email authored by Trentwood resident Mike Sims and copied to each of our seven City Commissioners:

Dear Commissioners,
I understand that an appeal of a variance request will be before you at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 7. This variance request is to raise the height of the billboard on McCoy Rd behind Trentwood Blvd to 65 feet.
I am opposed to this variance and do not believe allowing this height variance is in the best interests of our city. At the recent Planning and Zoning Board hearing, many residents voiced serious concerns about light pollution. Residents in attendance made it clear that they were against this variance. Please note that it is not just residents on or around Trentwood who are concerned about this height variance - you can see these extra-high lighted billboards all the way across the lake.
To be clear, neither myself nor my neighbors are against development of this lot on McCoy within the parameters set by our building code. However, allowing this variance could be a gateway to allowing further variances for a high rise hotel or other undesirable development properly prohibited by our code. Furthermore, permitting this variance request will provide no benefit to our city, financial or otherwise, to balance out the harm that it will cause to the quaint character of our city. 
As residents of Belle Isle, my family and I request that you vote against this variance. Belle Isle needs to remain the beautiful city we all love.
Mike Sims

Mr. Sims further recommends that all concerned residents email each City Commissioner (not just the one from your district) at the following email addresses:

Please be sure to calendar the upcoming City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. More info about this meeting will be provided once the meeting agenda has been posted by the City.

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