Commission votes for rezoning of resort areas

May. 20, 2014 @ 09:33 AM

The County Commission voted 22-0 to approve rezoning of several resort developments, including Black Bear Ridge Resort, to high density residential use, although one member of the board of zoning appeals asked them to delay the decision until they get findings on the investigation into the massive fire at Black Bear.

A wildfire in 2013 destroyed 53 cabins and damaged several others. Peter Bush, a contractor and member of the county’s board of zoning appeals, suggested the commission wait to make a decision until after it could hear the final reports of an investigation into that fire.

A draft report of the investigation says the fire spread from cabin to cabin primarily because radiant heat in the closely spaced cabins.

“Observations made during the site visit, and those made by reviewing the digital photographs taken by persons at the scene on the day of the fire, provided evidence that a building-to-building radiant heat exposure was the dominate (sic) cause of building ignition, but that an ember exposure also contributed,” according to the draft report prepared by the Tennessee Division of Forestry an the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

It acknowledges that changing the spacing between structures isn’t a likely option because the community has already been established, but recommends some other possible steps to reduce the risk of another fire including changes to materials used in decks and windows.

Bush asked commission to wait on its decision until a final report comes out in a few weeks.

However, County Planner Jeff Ownby told commission its actions won't affect the plans to rebuild the property. The zoning change involved several subdivisions, all of which were zoned for low density residential but actually qualify as high-density residential development.

“These are high density, small-lot subdivisions,” he said.

They also met some other requirements, including access to a a public water system.

The change in zoning won’t allow the developers to increase the density of the subdivision, it just acknowledges the way the way they were built or plans that were approved before the county enacted zoning regulations.

Developers with one of the other subdivision, Sherwood Forest Resort, also asked the commission to make a decision Monday so they could tell property owners who are planning cabins which zoning regulations would apply. High density residential use would allow for taller cabins, among other changes.

Commission approved a second rezoning request, this time approving a controversial measure to rezoning property on Maryville Highway from rural residential to rural commercial use.

Neighbors have opposed the request, and the commission rejected it on a previous vote due to their opposition.

However, the owner in the meantime dropped a request to have it rezoned for general commercial use. He told the planning commission he only planned to build a storage facility on the site.

The neighbors didn’t speak out against the proposal at Monday’s meeting, but County Commissioner Judy Godfrey, who represents the area, said they remained opposed to the measure.

Commission voted 17-5 in favor of allowing the rezoning Monday. Godfrey, Warren Hurst, Joe Keener, Gene Byrd and Bill Oakes voted against the measure. Buster Norton and Tony Proffitt were absent, and the seat of the late Jimmie Temple has not been filled.

The remaining commissioners voted in favor.

n jfarrell@themountainpress.com