COH

Six members of Homestead City Council explored development options on two vacant parcels on the northwest corner of Farm Life School Road and North Canal Drive at its meeting on Wednesday December 16.

Developers proposed to combine two adjacent lots of about eleven acres each for building purposes. Zoning was to change from general to R-2 residential for the western parcel and from B-1 retail commercial to R-1 residential for the eastern parcel. A land use plan amendment asked to change the latter parcel to low residential use from light commercial use.

In addition to those three items, Council was asked to approve six variances to City rules for a proposed D.R. Horton development of 114 single family residences on the whole parcel.

When approved, the variances were to be incorporated into a site plan for “Marie Estates Subdivision” plus a requested tentative amended plat plan too.

The eleven agenda items occupied Council’s attention for over two hours.

City staff recom-mended approval of the rezoning requests eliminating commercial development on that corner but asked for denial of the variance requests.

Attorney Hugo Arza representing the developers and D.R. Horton gave a video presentation on the proposed development.

Homes on the western and northern sides of the property bordering Tennessee Estates would have slightly larger lots to visually blend the two neighborhoods. A variance would permit lots of 4000 square feet total rather than the City’s minimum 7500 square feet size, applied to 94 of the sites 114 proposed homes. Another variance would allow buildings, driveways, sidewalks and the like to cover 65% of lots instead of the current maximum of 55% in the City.

Requested variances would change minimum lot widths from sixty feet to 48.2 feet, front yard depths to twenty feet from a twenty-five foot minimum, rear yard depths of ten feet instead of twenty-five feet minimums, and side yard widths of five feet from a City minimum of ten feet.

Attorney Arza gave at least four examples of existing Homestead developments with permitted lot sizes of less than 4000 square feet. The builder would give homeowners a choice of seven one and two-story models to build ranging in size from 1800 to 2500 square feet. Homeowners could expect probable monthly HOA fees of $150 to $180 for common landscaping plus maintenance of two pocket parks in the neighborhood.

Council was told the City could anticipate over $2.4 million in development impact fees for City services, as well as developer-paid road improvements for turning left onto Farm Life School Road. The North Canal Drive road improvement already includes an east-bound left hand turn onto the property.

Council acknowledged the benefits in eliminating commercial units at the site and the construction of single family residences instead of townhouses, condominiums, or multifamily units.

Discussion centered on the affordable but cramped plan of the homes, the rudimentary aesthetics of offered models, traffic concerns, and the questionable nature of the developers’ hardship requiring significant variances.

Before voting, Councilmembers asked the developers’ representative to consider limiting homes on the north and west edges to single story and with rooflines of tile rather than shingles to blend with surrounding developments.

Council first voted unanimously to amend the area comprehensive plan to eliminate light commercial use for the land. It then approved the first parcel’s rezoning from B-1 to R-1 use. 

By a vote of four to two, Council agreed to rezone the second parcel from general use to R-2, medium density residential use.

The first requested variance for minimum lots of 4000 square feet failed on a vote of three to three, because tie votes fail.

At this point, the City Attorney explained that the ultimate site plan and tentative plat were no longer acceptable as both contemplated acceptance of all variances. The developers’ attorney said he had no desire to prolong the discussion and asked for deferral of the remaining five variances.

After protracted parliamentary discussion, Council unanimously agreed to reconsider the rezoning vote from G to R2 and on the vote on the failed variance in order to defer decisions on the development package.

In other matters, Council approved the periodic update to FEMA standards on floodplain management to incorporate recommended federal changes prior to FEMA’s reevaluation of the City’s flood plans. An update to the police officers’ retirement plan investment protocols was accepted as having no actuarial impact.

Council also approved an extended contract for temporary staffing including lifeguards with options for future contract renewal.

A proposal to renew ENCO Utility Services call center staffing prompted some Councilmember comments on residents’ dissatisfaction with the customer service. Councilmember Larry Roth said he timed a service call at one hour sixteen seconds before anyone answered the phone. The City manager acknowledged the complaints, saying the goal was “quality service with calls answered in a timely fashion” in promising to work with the vendor.

In a final comment, Mayor Steve Losner asked Council to consider relocation of the F-4 Phantom jet currently mounted beside northbound US1 to a site on the point of City Hall land. Terming the jet “an icon of the community”, the Mayor said the Air Force retains the plane’s ownership and must plan for its costly repainting which could delay any move until 2022.

Councilmember comments were favorable but suggested an appointed task force to decide the exact relocation site within the City.

Before adjournment, the City Attorney asked for executive sessions on two pending lawsuits related to the recent Alger land rezoning decision where Homestead is a party.

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