After an hour-long public hearing - of mostly negative comments from citizens - Bedford County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday against the rezoning of 117 acres on Longview Road from agriculture to R-1 planned unit development (PUD.)
Long-time Unionville resident, Dolores Chester, who’s been following the PUD development since it was brought before the planning commission last spring, said, “We’re not saying the PUD isn’t beautiful because it is. But we’re saying we don’t think it belongs in our farming community because we can’t support it.”
Despite a lack of support, the land will still be developed as a conventional subdivision instead of a PUD by Landmark Homes of Tennessee. Land manager Randy Sexton said, “If this is turned down tonight, so be it. We will develop the property, but it’s not going to be the community that we’ve presented to you.”
He added, “We’ve offered to develop this property with private streets, private sidewalks—everything’s taken care of by the HOA. If we develop this as a typical cookie-cutter subdivision . . . guess who’s responsible for that? Bedford County. It’s not an HOA expense anymore.”
According to Sexton, they will still implement a STEP system for the subdivision. “We will be going forward with a STEP system during the PUD design or with conventional design,” said Sexton. The company that will build and manage this system is the public utility company Adenus, which has been around for 40 years.
Sexton also talked about some of the “misrepresentations” that have been spread around the PUD. Runoff was another major concern for residents.
Sexton said they were proposing six retention ponds and storm pipes, curb and gutters to direct the water away. “Where else do you see that in this area?” he said.
Commissioner Linda Yockey, who sits on the County planning commission, added, “If there’s a subdivision, there’s going to be more flooding than if there’s a PUD.”
The homes proposed for development within the PUD would have been 60 to 80 feet apart. “This is not a high density neighborhood,” said Sexton. The plan was to have 109 lots within 117 acres.
According to owner and land purchaser, Gary Wisniewsi, soil testing by state soil scientist, Randy Dickerson, showed there could be up to 160 potential lots on the property.
Many residents also questioned the financial integrity of Landmark Homes. Wisniewsi said the company had been around for 35 years and has built over 4,000 homes. Landmark, he said, was one of only three such businesses—out of 350 companies—that survived during the economic downturn from 2006 to 2012, company officials stated.
Many residents also said they felt the PUD would be a “self-contained community” within their own—that their kids would not be able to play on the PUD’s proposed playground. However, Sexton said the playground would be open to anyone in the area.
“We’re not building a gated community that’s walled off from the rest of the county,” Sexton said. “We’re trying to bring people in and incorporate them into the county.”
Sexton added, “We’re talking about higher priced homes that will bring people here who have money to spend. We’re not looking for subsidized housing. We’re very passionate about this. We do this for a living. We’re not here to come in, cut in, and run.”
Those who voted in favor of the rezoning were: Commissioners John Boutwell, Sylvia Pinson, Julie Sanders, Mark Thomas and Greg Vick.
Those who voted against were: Bill Anderson, Jason Boyette, Janice Brothers, Anita Epperson, Biff Farrar, Drew Hooker, Eric Maddox, Dianne Neeley, Tony Smith, Adam Thomas, Linda Yockey and Troy Thompson.
Commissioner Mark Thomas said, “This developer has met all the criteria . . . . And now as a governing body, we’ve got to make a decision whether or not they can do it. I’ve heard it through the years up here that the government’s too involved in what people do with their property . . . and yet, we’re going to tell these people yes or no on what they can do with their property.”
The land that was sold to Landmark Homes was owned by the Grablis Family.
Zoning director Chris White has said in previous meetings that there are no PUDs in Bedford County. Commissioner Yockey mentioned that PUDs have been “on the books” for 8 to 10 years.
More public comments
Fourth-generation dairy farmer, Stephanie Nash, from Nash Family Creamery in Unionville, spoke against the rezoning. “I’m speaking for the agricultural industry. It’s really personal when there’s people trying to develop on agricultural land. Me, personally, we moved out of California because of developments, because of higher taxes, because of regulations . . . . We don’t want that in Bedford County and we sure as hell don’t want that for our family farmers and ranchers.”
There has been some community discussion about the burden of more students at the Community school area, if the rezoning to PUD were to be approved. Community Middle School 7th grader, William Chapman, spoke next during the public hearing portion of the Commission meeting.
“In my science class, I have 34 kids. It is very hard to focus and learn. Not all schools are crowded, but all lack teachers and bus drivers.”
The middle school student added, “I encourage you all to vote this land rezoning down and focus on things for my generation to be proud of.”