“An eight-foot wall isn’t high enough. All we want is a fair shake. Treat us with some respect.” Barney Drake, a Magnolia Trace resident.

A light industrial, office and commercial development, which has gone through ownership and other changes, moved closer to reality Wednesday night.The planning commission recommended that city council members approve the amended planned industrial district off Joe B Jackson with one major change.

It’s a season of walls

Thanks to Councilman Eddie Smotherman, who is also on the planning  commission, Drake got an extra foot on a wall between the development and his home. Maybe it wasn’t all that he wanted, but even that result was a surprise to this jaded observer.

In all, residents living in the adjacent Magnolia Trace subdivision got some concessions but came away dissatisfied from Wednesday’s planning commission meeting.

Word from the bird: It's smart not to buy a home of the edge of a subdivision.
Word from the bird: “Don’t buy a home here on the edge of a tract.”

“We know we can’t please everybody,” Vice Mayor Doug Young, who sits on the planning commission, told departing residents.

The sad truth is that the neighborhood meeting and negotiations would be unnecessary if city leaders would only recognize a simple planning principle — residences and industrial uses don’t go together. Other communities know this.

To developer Joe Swanson’s credit, he is offering the Magnolia Trace residents a far better deal than what the prior owner, Pinnacle Financial Partners, had proposed.

The 150 acre parcel has four sections: (1) a narrow strip that runs parallel to Joe B; (2) a neck that runs southwest between the Amazon warehouse and Prairie View Drive in Magnolia Trace and (3-4) two sections to the south between I-24 and the Oakland Farm subdivision on Coldstream Road.

Achieving the impossible
The road had to be that way. It has to do with an alignment law of nature.
The road had to be that way. It has to do with an alignment law of nature.

To protect residents on Prairie View from truck traffic, the original plan called for an access road to the development to run along the western edge of that narrow neck. Somewhere in the process, however,  that became impossible. Residents of Prairie View, who thought they were protected, suddenly found themselves with a road running right behind their back yards. They were told there was no other way to align the access road with the intersection of Richard Reaves and Joe B Jackson.

Developers doing the planning

What was impossible for Pinnacle suddenly became feasible for Swanson. His road aligns with Richard Reaves Drive but runs down the center of the neck instead of next to the homes’ back yards. Warehouses in the neck on either side of the Reaves extension will be an added buffer. That road extension will end in a temporary cul de sac that will open when the bulk of the 150-acre property develops

A small-business incubator

The front strip along Joe B. could become a small shopping center, a restaurant, an office complex, or other uses that would serve the Joe B Jackson businesses and nearby residents.

Swanson views the neck itself as a business incubator, filled with flexible buildings that would offer inexpensive and small spaces for people just starting out in business. Then, as these entrepreneurs grow, the modular buildings could grow with them or the businesses could move to new locations.

The huge back two parcels would contain larger, traditional warehouses and other light industrial and commercial uses, The biggest buildings will lie away from Oakland Farm toward I-24. In all cases, the loading docks that serve the big tractor trailer trucks will be on the far side of the warehouses, away from the homes.

Fears the development will hurt property values
Cole: "Treat us equally."
Cole: “Treat us equally.”

Residents of Prairie View who spoke at the meeting were concerned about lighting, security, noise, trash, odors and truck traffic.

Wayne Cole, who lives on the cul de sac at the end of Prairie View has double exposure to the development. The neck runs to the left of his land, and the strip along Joe B Jackson comes off the neck to form an L. He will benefit from the masonry wall along the neck, but fears there will be no such protection for his lot along the strip.

“The project is unfair,” he said, “because it doesn’t treat all homeowners equally.”

The strip parcel on Joe B Jackson abuts the northwest corner of Cole’s lot.

“It (development of the Joe B strip) will diminish the value of my property,” Cole added.

A promise from Swanson

Swanson said he isn’t sure how the strip will evolve but assured Cole he would attach a deed restriction requiring a wall when it is developed

Bob Fritz painted a grim picture of hamburger boxes coming over the wall and cluttering up his property.

Dana Bryson said the new plan actually places development 25 feet from her property, as opposed to 108 feet in the prior plan. She asked for tight restrictions on lighting, where trucks can load and unload and a ban on anything like dumpsters behind the warehouses near her home.

Margaret Ann Green, a principal planner for the city, assured Bryson that the city’s lighting ordinance allows only about 1/2 of one candle power of light leakage from the site to adjoining properties.

While big truck deliveries will take place on the far side of all warehouses, smaller panel trucks will drive behind the warehouses to make pickups and deliveries, Swanson admitted. Bryson asked for a 10 p.m. restriction on the business hours of any restaurant that opens in the development.

Not a case of “let the buyer beware”

“If they (this development) were in there first, it would be a case of ‘let the buyer beware.’ But we were here first, so we hope you will consider our needs and our wishes,” said David Hilton.

Deafening Silence

Routine motions to approve developments are so much the norm here, it was like waiting for the other shoe to drop when there was only silence at motion time. This was where Smotherman stepped in.

He said the issue for him is security and privacy. While admitting that his wall jumping days are over, he said an eight foot wall is not that hard to clear or to peer over.

“Would it be possible to raise that wall to 10 feet?” he asked Swanson.

The developer said the wall runs several hundred feet, and to raise it two feet and still make able to withstand high winds would add about $200,000 to his costs.

“How about a nine foot wall?” Smotherman asked.

Swanson, no doubt impressed by the pregnant silence at motion time, agreed