Bryant Lake residents oppose zoning change

Published 8:30 am Thursday, December 15, 2022

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The LaGrange City Council held a public hearing on a proposed zoning change to remove conditions that were placed on a portion of the Bryant Lake Development. A large contingent of residents from the community spoke out against the change and potential development.

The Board of Planning and Zoning appeals recommended approval of a request by Keystone Custom Homes to rezone four parcels on Bryant Lake Blvd. from Traditional Neighborhood Residential (TN-R) to Traditional Neighborhood Residential (TN-R), Corridor Medium Density Residential (CR-MR) to Corridor Medium Density Residential (CR-MR) and Corridor Mixed Use (CR-MX) to Corridor Mixed Use (CR-MX).

Each of the parcels would change to a zoning designation of the same name.

City Planner Mark Kostial explained that the rezoning is needed to remove conditions placed on the property that do not align with the current Unified Development Ordinance. The conditions were placed on the property when it was rezoned in 2019.

The roughly 134-acre property in question was originally part of a master plan for the Bryant Lake development, but it has changed hands multiple times — including through foreclosure — since the original plan was created. In 2019, the city approved a zoning change for the property that effectively negated some master plan requirements, but the council added several conditions to help ease the concerns of Bryant Lake residents.

The action was challenged in court, but most of the complaints were struck down and the city was allowed to rezone the property.

The conditions placed on the property include:

  • Density limits of no more than 250 apartments, 120 villas, and 148 traditional residential lots
  • Minimum square footage of 600 sq. ft. per apartment, 1,000 sq. ft. per villa and 1,500 per single-family home
  • A two-car garage requirement
  • Architectural Design requirements
  • Sidewalk width of 8 feet
  • On-street parking prohibited
  • Fencing material requirements
  • A minimum of 5 percent active recreation area
  • Monument style signage
  • Recreational and maintenance vehicle limitations

The developer requested the change to bring the property in line with the rest of the city, which would allow for a few more homes and make the development more viable.

The density limits were the primary concern of those who opposed the change.

Kostial said that under the proposed zoning a maximum of 176 single-family lots could be built. They’re currently approved for 148, he said.

“While speaking with the developer, they’ve run their numbers and they realize they won’t even come anywhere close to the 176. They’re actually down to 160,” Kostial said, explaining that the difference is only about 12 homes.

Many residents voiced concerns during the public hearing saying that when they purchased their homes they bought into Bryant Lake because of the master plan.

“Under the existing parameters of the Bryant Lake master plan, we all welcome this new development and believe that it will have a positive impact on the value of our property but without these restrictions, there will be several negative consequences and impacts both on our community standard of living and on the value of our property,” Bryant Lake resident Matthew Meredith said.

“When the developer acquired this property, they were aware of the restrictions that were in place. There is already a very reasonable and very viable economic use under the existing master plan. In fact, construction has already begun,” he said. “I believe what the developer is asking for is carte blanche to maximize their financial gain with no regard for the impact it will have on the existing community and adjacent property to build out to the maximum density and with the lower building requirements. This addition will have a substantially negative impact on the value of the existing homes.”

Several residents also said they believe the single entrance to Bryant Lake cannot handle the influx of residents, nor could the nearby Clearview Elementary accommodate the influx of students.

“You’ve got all these like 1,300 people coming in at one entrance all day long traffic. I mean just the school buses, people going to work. You’re asking for accidents,” Bryant Lake resident Robin Lattimore said.

Keith Newberry, of Keystone Custom Homes, said he believes that the residents of Bryant Lake have been misinformed about what is currently allowed for the property. Newberry explained that the 250 apartments, 120 villas and 148 houses have already been approved with the 2019 rezoning and could be built immediately.

“I had a totally different speech to give to you all tonight when one of my neighbors told me that they didn’t even know that [the previous zoning change] was approved. By right we could go and develop this property just like this tomorrow. But they were led to believe that this property would remain wooded or maybe a senior 55-development,” Newberry said. “I really am disappointed to find out that our neighbors believed that our property was going to remain wooded and were not told that this zoning has been approved.”

Newberry said they are just asking to be able to build under the same requirements as the rest of LaGrange.

“I think it’s important that the council allow [Bryant Lake residents] to know that we’re only asking to be treated like every other developer in this neighborhood and this entire community and allow for us to build under the UDO,” he said.

“We’re not asking for exceptional amounts of increases to the density here. You may have 20 to 30 more townhomes, he said.

Newberry said that in order to fill the commercial aspect of the property with good, long-term businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores and drugstores, they have to have a certain level of population density.

“If we don’t remove the restrictions, we can’t have any allowance or any opportunity to change what this land use plan prescribes. It’s okay if we have to build to this, but if we’re not able to get good retail up front, we’ll end up with who knows? Cigarette stores or liquor stores? How is that going to impact Bryant Lake?” Newberry asked.

“The only reason this is an issue is because there’s a possibility to stop someone from doing something which could prevent the developer behind us from financial gain to create competition. One hundred and forty-eight to 160 housing units is not changing the game in any way. We all know that’s 12 houses.”

Bryant Lake resident and realtor Kendall Butler said the developer could have built anywhere, but they chose to purchase the property with its current conditions.

“This is a master development plan. What [the developer] is asking for is to fall under the city UDO. There was land available down the street on Hamilton Rd. There’s land available on South Davis. There’s land available all around LaGrange to build under the UDO,” Butler said. “He didn’t buy land anywhere in LaGrange. He bought it in Bryant Lake.”