Council rejects another rezoning application

Mar. 18, 2013 @ 10:13 PM

For the second business meeting in a row, City Council members on Monday voted to reject a rezoning request that had drawn a formal protest from the site’s neighbors.

But this time around, the decision didn’t turn on a single vote. The six members present unanimously voted against rezoning two Guess Road parcels owned by local businessman Nick Bourbous.

Bourbous and his sons, George and Peter Bourbous, wanted part of the third-of-an-acre site earmarked for neighborhood-level commercial development, on grounds that it would make it easier to find tenants.

However, the site backs up to homes in the Watts Hospital-Hillandale neighborhood. Buffers were a major point of contention, one that resisted prods last month from the council for a negotiated solution.

All involved indicated Monday that a last-ditch meeting between Nick and George Bourbous and neighbors had not been productive.

Bourbous and his sons said they’d be willing to install a 15-foot buffer between their property and the adjoining homes, with a 7-foot-high wooden fence, or just leave a 20-foot buffer.

Trouble was, neither the 20-foot buffer nor the wooden fence were available options, given the drawings on file for the project and the city’s rules, City/County Planning Director Steve Medlin said.

A 15-foot buffer would only serve in combination with a masonry wall or a hedge, Medlin said.

Moreover, the proposal Bourbous and sons offered on Monday was “something I have never seen” in the talks that had unfolded previously, said Kay Ringer, whose home adjoins the site.

She added that dispute had been going on for 20 months. “We have not seen eye to eye, yes, but when we have gotten together, [neighbors] think we haven’t been heard,” Ringer said.

Watts-Hillandale’s neighborhood association also weighed in against the rezoning, arguing that the site’s current mix of office and residential zoning was best for an area near Broad Street where there’s a lot of pressure to convert residential property into commercial property.

The existing zoning “creates a stable boundary between those two uses,” association spokesman Tom Miller said. “Why would you mess with that?”

Monday’s meeting was the second in a row where the council had to decide a rezoning controversial enough to draw a formal, supermajority-invoking protest petition from neighbors.

On March 4, a plan for apartments, a gas station and self-storage units at the corner of N.C. 54 and Barbee Road went down to defeat after getting only five of the six votes necessary to overcome a protest.

Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden joined Mayor Bill Bell – who lives in the neighborhood next to that site – in voting against that proposal.

Bourbous and his sons also needed support from six members, even though Councilman Howard Clement was absent from Monday’s meeting.

They argued that the site, in its current condition, is more a detriment to the neighborhood than an asset.

“Undeveloped, abandoned properties breed crime,” George Bourbous said. “We mean no ill will to the neighborhood association.”

The Bourbous family had been working with landscape architect George Stanziale. But they and the consultant parted ways after the final abortive negotiating session with neighbors.