BW council okays rezoning for Oakhurst

BLYTHEWOOD – After a brief pushback from Councilman Rich McKenrick, the Blythewood Town Council approved a request Tuesday evening to initiate a zoning amendment for the Oakhurst neighborhood, a 54-lot subdivision off Boney Road that was created roughly two decades go.

The request was for a change from the current R-8 zoning district, which has a minimum lot size of 8,000 square feet and allows one- and two-family dwellings, to R-20 zoning district, which has a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet and only allows single-family homes.

In his written explanation of the proposal for the council, Town Administrator Carroll Williamson said that all of the lots in Oakhurst are larger than 20,000 square feet and that five of the neighborhood’s 54 lots remain undeveloped.

Town Councilman Donald Brock, who is the current acting president of the Oakhurst of Blythewood Homeowners’ Association, formally recused himself.

At the start of the discussion, Councilman Eddie Baughman supported the rezoning request.

“I’ve spoken to several of the residents and they are fully in favor of the request,” Baughman said.

Baughman said council had rezoned most of the available lots in Blythewood to R-20 several years ago.

“We didn’t want R-5, R-8 or even R-12,” he said. “We wanted R-20. So, I’m in full support of this.”

 Speaking for residents of Oakhurst was realtor Chris Shull, who said he is an 18-year resident of the neighborhood.

“R-20 really fits the neighborhood more so than R-8, and we just feel like we want to make sure it stays exactly as it is in our neighborhood,” said Shull.

“We still have a couple of [undeveloped] lots, and they’re still sitting out there, so we just want to make sure [these lots] fit like kind, the way it is currently,” he said. “This would be the best way to protect [the neighborhood].”

Town Councilman Rich McKenrick questioned the rezoning proposal.

“Have you all reached out to the five lots that are undeveloped so they know what is happening?” McKenrick asked.

“Yes, we have sent them letters,” Shull said.

“Are they in favor of this or opposed to it? McKenrick asked.

“They’ve said neither because it’s based on the rules of the HOA,” Shull said. “It goes right along with what the HOA already has in place as far as setbacks, as far as house size, and everything,” Shull said. “[This rezoning] just further rubber-stamps it to say [the zoning] flows with what your covenants say currently.”

According to a survey presented to council, 38 homeowners – about three-quarters of the neighborhood’s residents – expressed support for the change, with none in opposition.

McKenrick said his concern was that if someone owns a property that is undeveloped, and all the developed property owners decide they think their choice in style of home and setback should dictate the remaining five, I think I would have less heartburn if you were saying ‘yes, three of the five are in favor of this.’

“Well, they just haven’t responded,” Shull said.

“Are they paying members of your HOA?” McKenrick continued.

“They don’t pay dues until a home is built on the property.” Shull responded.

“I wish there was more unification within Oakhurst because we could be setting our planning commission up to be the referee in a battle that they couldn’t handle themselves,” McKenrick said. “I would be in favor of moving [the rezoning request] to the planning commission with the caveat that we may be putting our planning commission in a situation that an HOA couldn’t handle themselves.”

“Here’s the situation,” Shull explained. “If it’s R-20, it falls in line with what our covenants already say. So it’s going to be the same thing. The HOA would refuse allowing them [the five lots] architectural approval.”

One of the reasons it might not be approved, as one homeowner in the neighborhood explained following the meeting, is that the neighborhood is not served by sewer, so to accommodate a large drain field for a septic tank, there would not necessarily be adequate space to build the minimum 1,800 square foot home on an R-8 lot.

“Ok, we’re agreeing,” McKenrick said to Shull. “If your HOA would not approve a house to go on a lot within your neighborhood, why do this?”

“Why not?” Shull responded. “It’s already like that, let’s just make everything agree.”

Councilman Sloan Griffin made a motion, seconded by Baughman, to approve the request to initiate an amendment to the town’s zoning map for the Oakhurst neighborhood to be sent to staff for the planning commission.

The board, including McKenrick, voted unanimously to approve the motion.

Williamson said that once the zoning amendment is initiated, it will go through the typical zoning amendment process, which will include the placement of a sign on each affected property, letters to each of the affected property owners, and newspaper advertisements to ensure that all those who are impacted are fully aware of the process and what is being proposed.

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