Highland Avenue rezone approved

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Troy City Hall fell silent Tuesday afternoon, as the council considered the final request to rezone the first block of Highland Avenue.

After a long pause, Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford spoke out.

“There has to be an action taken at this level if it’s a recommendation coming to the council,” Lunsford said.

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And so, Council President Johnny Witherington paved the way for the final approval of the request that has been debated in the city for the last three years, which will move the 100 block of Highland Avenue from R-1 single family living to an R-3 high-density neighborhood.

Councilman Charles Meeks, who is the representative of the area, seconded Witherington’s motion.

“I know it’s not a popular issue,” Meeks said. But with promises to commit to enforce zoning issues, the council unanimously made history.

Those changes didn’t come without heartfelt pleas from area residents for the council to vote in opposition.

“As a resident of that subdivision, I oppose it,” said John Jinright. “I feel like in good faith, I purchased property in a subdivision that would remain R-1.”

Jinright was not alone.

Michael Alsup, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, asked the council to consider another option.

Alsup, representing both the church and Covenant Christian School, said he would prefer the council only rezone the north side of Highland Avenue to R3, to create a better transition between Highland and University Avenues.

“Most of the people on that block (Highland) wish to do this, but the people that back up to that property are negatively impacted,” Alsup said. “No one pushing this lives on that property. They live on property protected by R-1.”

Alsup said not only does he represent a church and a school, but the church also owns a home, that he himself once resided in.

“I love college students. I moved to Troy because of this university,” Alsup said. “But they don’t make for good neighbors.”

Earl Ellis, local realtor, came also to speak on behalf of the church.

“We come here thinking this is probably a cut and dry decision already, but we ask you to use your conscious,” Ellis said. “The church would be agreeable to something in between, but R-3 we are opposed to.”

It was a decision Witherington said was one of the hardest things he’s had to do in office.

“This issue about Highland Avenue has been going on for three year,” Witherington said. “No matter what, someone will be negatively impacted by this.”

But, with all landowners on the first block of Highland in agreement, a unanimous approval from the Planning Commission and recommendations for transition in the city’s long-range plan, Witherington said it was a decision he felt he had to support.

“I thought it remiss for us to not consider it,” Witherington said.

Also in the meeting, the council approved a retail liquor license for the Locker Room II, a seafood restaurant that will open in Troy.

Charlie’s Angels also presented $6,000 worth of checks to all schools in Pike County.