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Town residents bring doublewide zoning issue to planning commission

Thursday’s meeting of the members of Mountain City’s Planning Commission addressed the concerns of residents living in the Ivy and Spruce Street section of Mountain City. Approximately 15 people came before the Planning Commission to express their distress over the placement of a double-wide in their community.
The concerns of the residents were not only that the double-wide did not meet the city’s zoning ordinance for an R1-zoned neighborhood and setback requirements, but additionally that the appearance of the manufactured home would not have the same general appearance as the rest of the neighborhood. The residents were concerned that this structure would not be in line with the characteristics of other houses in the immediate area, leading to a decrease in property values. Several residents have expressed concern over confusion regarding information they received from City Hall as to building permits, zoning ordinances and amendments.
Charles Alley, with the Department of Commerce and Economic Development for the State of Tennessee, reminded the audience that the issue on hand before the Planning Commission was the determination of any violations of the zoning ordinance and only that issue. Mayor Kevin Parsons, a member of the Planning Commission, confirmed that the issue before the commission was zoning. “What’s right for one is right for the other,” Parsons said.
Lewis Spearman, who served for 25 years as a trial attorney, was the spokesperson for the community. He addressed the members of the Planning Commission with a well-prepared presentation exhibiting pictures of the double-wide in question and excerpts from the Town of Mountain City’s Zoning Ordinance and Tennessee state law. While double-wide homes cannot be discriminated against by local zoning ordinances according to state law, they must have the same general appearance as required for houses in the neighborhood. Speakers were allowed five minutes to plead their case, however, several residents relinquished their allotted time to Spearman so he could continue his presentation and arguments as to the neighborhood double-wide concerns. As the meeting progressed, the residents became more passionate as voices were raised with questions, comments and concerns.
According to Randy Glenn, owner of the property in dispute, Chris Johnson, building inspector for The Town of Mountain City, issued him a building permit. The double-wide sits 26-1/2 feet off Ivy Street and 70 feet off Spruce Street. Glenn contends that the front of the double-wide faces Spruce Street, with a Spruce Street address. The original address of the double-wide was Ivy Street, but Glenn later explained that it was changed to Spruce based on the driveway access to the property. His appeal to the Planning Commission was that the unit is 70 feet from the front of Spruce Street, well within the set-back guidelines. Lewis argued that regardless of the placement of the front door, the issue on hand was the street setback requirements and the double-wide should be 30 feet from Ivy Street, according to the Town of Mountain City’s Zoning Ordinance. In a conversation with The Tomahawk, Glenn added he is in possession of a copy of the building application, the approved building permit and a copy of the survey performed by Todd Grayson. Glenn has been employed in the construction field for the past 25 years in the residential arena, as well as commercial construction including power plants and paper mills. Per the building permit and survey, Glenn believes that he is in compliance and within the permit’s requirements. “When I get done with the house it will look like a ranch style home,” Glenn said, “You’ll never know it’s a mobile home when I get finished.” The Planning Commission stressed that the double-wide must have similar foundation and skirting as the neighboring residences.
The Planning Commission voted to enforce all setback requirements in all new houses within the city to meet setback frontage requirements. This information will be turned over to George Wright, City Attorney, for further action. Glenn added that Mountain City had approved his permit and he is in compliance based on that permit and the building application that was submitted with a sketch. “I have a lot of money in this thing,” said Glenn. “Everything is basically done.” As of this time, Glenn added that no order to stop work has been issued. He believes it would cost approximately $30,000 to move the double-wide. Glenn plans to keep working on the property until informed otherwise.
Spokesperson Lewis Spearman spoke for the community regarding the outcome of the meeting. “We are pleased with the decision by the members of the Planning Commission and Board of Appeals. This board acted unanimously to follow and enforce the zoning ordinance and state law, rather than accept the interpretations presented by others to have a partisan point of view,” said Spearman.