Developer Bob Goodall speaks to the Portland City Council during the debate on the proposed Sunflower planned unit development. Council members ultimately rejected the proposal with a unanimous vote.

The Portland City Council unanimously rejected a preliminary master plat for a planned development on West Longview Drive during its July 12 meeting.

The proposed Sunflower Planned Unit Development (PUP) was designed to cover 25.24 acres and contain 56 homes on lots ranging from 6,600 to 8,000 square feet. A portion of the project was intended to house up to 64 people with disabilities and would contain a training center and an assisted living facility for the disabled.

The Portland Planning Commission rejected the master plat twice at its May and June meetings.

“Our planning commission’s turned it down twice,” alderman Mike Hall said. “I think everyone had an objection about parts of this.”

Developer Bob Goodall previously stated that his passion for the project came a meeting with Joe Morgan of Biblical Concepts, who introduced him to a lot of people with disabilities. After that he made the decision to build houses for those with disabilities.

“I feel like I’ve made a commitment that we’re going to purchase the property and go forward either way,” Goodall said in response to a question from alderman Jody McDowell about his intentions if the PUD failed. “I’m open to lessen the density.

“To build houses that are for the disabled, it’s a protected class, and we didn’t really have to bring it up. We wanted to be totally transparent about what we are doing and people get concerned.”

Neighbors spoke against the proposed project, citing various concerns such as high-density housing, drainage issues and traffic problems that they said would be created on West Longview Drive.

“We’re asking that he just not do it,” said Lola Johnson, a resident of West Longview Drive. “We were told these homes would house people with physical disabilities, those on the autism spectrum and those with mental issues. I would not feel safe with people with mental illness living in our neighborhood.”

Alex Hunter added, “Our hope is that you vote against this. Force him to come back with something that’s a little bit of compromise. He still gets a lot of houses. We can’t stop houses, but you can stop his retail center.”

Vickie Hunter, who also resides on West Longview, also gave feedback.

“My main concern is the eight homes with the eight people living in them,” Hunter said. “This isn’t something we want in our area. It’s got too many issues that come along with it.”

The proposed rezoning of the property from high density and low density single residential and to general commercial and high density also failed.

“I want to make sure the neighbors were aware ... he’s offered to build big houses along the road,” McDowell said. “The way it stands now, he can put apartments there.”

Portland Vice Mayor Drew Jennings added, “As the zoning sits, he can put 52 homes in the front end. We can’t tell him you can’t put in all these homes in the front of the subdivision. That’s the current zoning.”

In other matters, the council also rejected by a 4-2 vote on second reading a proposed rezoning of 67.96 acres on Jim Courtney Road from rural residential to low density residential. Only Jennings and McDowell voted in favor of the rezoning.

Prior to the decision, the ordinance was amended to require the developer to bond road improvements in an effort to address the concerns of neighbors. Callis broke a 3-3 tie to approve the amendment after Megann Thompson abstained.

A motion by Brian Woodall to send the matter back to the planning commission to review the road construction piece of the project was withdrawn after discussions.

That request had been recommended by the planning commission by a 6-0 vote at its April meeting and was approved by the city council in May.

Bob Cole, who lives across from the proposed subdivision, said, “The roads are just too narrow… The widening of the road would only be in front of that subdivision. What happens when you get down the road?”

Pat Dubois — who lives on Old Parkers Chapel Road, which runs into Jim Courtney Road — added, “The traffic is already terrible. I moved to Portland for the quiet. It’s not going to stay quiet the way y’all are going.”

A requested rezoning to change property at North Russell Street and Victor Reiter Parkway from low density residential to neighborhood mixed use was approved by a 4-3 vote on first reading, with Thomas Dillard, Hall and Woodall in opposition. A second reading will be held in August.

The board also approved the designation of the Moye-Green House as a historic landmark. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 and will be the future home of the city’s history museum.

The council approved on second reading job descriptions for a solid waste crew lead and a stormwater technician for the city. Callis pointed out that no hirings have been made.

A bid for the purchase of supplies for the water department was approved, as was a $6,600 agreement for engineering services for the West Market Street natural gas relocation, and a change order of $5,121.75 for the Searcy Lane/Highway 52E signal project.

A budget amendment of $155,000 to purchase a side-arm mower and paving equipment was approved on first reading and will come back in August. The funds were internally transferred from funds already allocated in the budget.

The council also approved the sale of four city-owned properties — 107 Sharon Drive, 109 Sharon Drive, 223 College Street and 225 College Street. The board will have to later determine a process for the actual sale.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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