Sevierville zoning sign sows confusion

Jan. 21, 2013 @ 11:55 PM

Residential neighbors of a Village Drive house already were unhappy about an ordinance that would rezone the plot commercial. Then the city notified them of a public meeting about the proposal. There was only one problem.

The meeting had already happened.

The Mountain Press received several calls about a sign that appeared Tuesday, Jan. 8, in the yard of 1107 Village Dr. The sign says the rezoning will be considered when the Board of Mayor and Aldermen meets on Monday, Feb. 4  – and on Monday, Jan. 7, the day before the sign went up.

The callers were suspicious. "Why wasn't the sign put up before the meeting?" one asked.

City spokesman Bob Stahlke acknowledged the mistake. "Yes, we posted the day after the second reading," he said. "I'm sorry for any confusion."

Neighbors vocally opposed the rezoning when it received second reading at that Jan. 7 meeting. The rezoning is being sought by the owners of Pro Therapy Services, a physical therapy provider next to 1107 Village Dr. They want to use the property for parking.

Near LeConte Medical Center, Village Drive is in an area with much commercial development, including former homes that are now being used as businesses.

The property will be rezoned if the ordinance passes third reading on Feb. 4.

The state requires the city to announce zoning changes 15 days before their final hearing, Stahlke said. "We're still complying with state law."

Normally the city announces zoning changes two hearings in advance, Stahlke said. That didn't happen this time because the board's scheduled Jan. 21 meeting was canceled for the Martin Luther King holiday – a change Mayor Bryan Atchley announced at the Jan. 7 meeting.

When city workers began making the sign, they didn't know the date of the second hearing, Stahlke said. So they waited to finish the sign until after the Jan. 7 meeting, when the schedule was set.

"We certainly don't want that to be our practice," Stahlke said. "We make every effort to go above and beyond what the law says."

kburns@themountainpress.com