MOUNT VERNON — The Municipal Planning Commission voted 5-0 Thursday to recommend denial of a zoning change from R-1 (single family residential) to R-3 (multi-family residential) for 197 Mansfield Road. The change would allow Riverside Recovery to accept up to 16 clients at a time in the residential recovery program operating at the site.
The rezoning was requested by owner Amy Smart after she was notified by the city that accepting more than five clients at a time was a zoning violation. She told the Planning Commission that she currently has 11 clients housed there.
Nearly 100 people attended the hearing, which was originally supposed to be held Jan. 18 in City Hall’s Council Chambers, but the number of people wanting to attend overwhelmed the Council Chamber’s seating capacity of 65. Instead, the meeting was held in the large banquet room at the Station Break.
City Council will be notified of the recommendation Monday and will schedule a public hearing. That meeting will also be held at the Station Break on a Monday when council does not meet.
The vote was “pretty disappointing,” said Smart. She added that it has been noted during the discussion that the city’s zoning code had not been reviewed or updated since about 1993 and “don’t you think it’s time to look at it again?”
Smart had argued that the demand for residential recovery services is growing and she gets enough referrals every day to fill the program.
She admitted that she had not checked into zoning restrictions when she bought the house, but it was the most suitable she could find for an affordable price.
She was supported by residents and graduates of recovery programs who argued about the great need for the programs and that it would not disrupt the neighborhood.
Attorney Korey Kidwell, representing Smart, suggested that they would also be amenable to a change to R-2 zoning if the commission thought that more suitable, and also suggested adding a provision that any change would revert to R-1 if Smart would sell the property.
However, Law Director Rob Broeren said, “That’s not how the Zoning Code works.”
The arguments of local residents against the change were summed up by Alethea Gallogly of Longitude Drive, who said it is spot zoning, changes the character of the neighborhood, has inadequate parking, no sidewalks and traffic concerns.
She also noted that it is the buyer’s responsibility to research any zoning restrictions that may apply.