Emerson council considers zoning change, right-of-way encroachment

NEIL MCGAHEE/The Daily Tribune News
LakePoint CEO Neal Freeman asks the Emerson City Council for an encroachment permit for its new facility.
The Emerson City Council approved a text amendment to a zoning ordinance Monday that will allow tutoring as a conditional use in a residential area.

That ruling, and one already approved by the planning and zoning board, may finally be the payoff for a resident who has literally fought City Hall, and her neighbors, for the last four months to get approval to rezone a residential property to commercial in order to allow her to expand her work with dyslexic children and adults.

“I am a certified dyslexia tutor,” Tabitha Molina told the council at its Oct. 24, 2016 meeting. “Dyslexia is a big, big need in our community. Our schooI systems don’t even recognize it. I have been working out of my home, but we need a bigger place.”

Dyslexia, also known as reading disorder, affects about 45 million Americans, according to the American Dyslexia Association.

It is characterized by difficulty reading — despite normal intelligence — spelling words, reading quickly, writing words, “sounding out” words in the head, pronouncing words when reading aloud and understanding what one reads.

“I am a dyslexic,” Molina said. “That’s why this is such a mission for me personally. It’s not about making money as much as it is helping people who suffer from dyslexia. This center would allow me to hire more tutors — no more than four to five — which would allow us to expand the number of students we can help.”

Molina and her husband, Steve, bought a house on Gaston Westbrook Avenue last summer, intending to create a tutoring center. In order to do that, they need to get the zoning changed from residential (R) to neighborhood retail commercial (C-1), thus their appearance at Monday’ s meeting.

But her neighbors came to the meeting to oppose Molina’s plans.

“I’m not going along with this at all,” said Mary Ferguson, who lives near the site of the center. “There’s a big school (the old Emerson Elementary School) right down the road that’s city-owned and full of empty classrooms.”

Ferguson said she and the other residents fear the center might close at a later date and new owners might take advantage of the commercial zoning to attract businesses that might not have the welfare of the neighborhood in mind.

Neighbors Madge Sneed and Ellen Ferguson echoed Ferguson’s sentiments, expressing their expectations that the project would eventually close shop and less savory types of businesses might move in.

The opposition was so intense, Molina left the meeting in tears.

At the Nov. 14 meeting, Molina brought an army of people — parents as well as clients — to lend support as she pled her case. This time there was less opposition and several council members seemed to be leaning in her favor.

Because it was a first reading, no vote could be taken. A second and final reading will be heard at the next council meeting on Feb. 27.

Council heard a request from LakePoint Sporting Community for an encroachment permit to accommodate a new facility.

“LakePoint has a new facility they would like to build,” said city Manager Kevin McBurnette. “although it is only conceptual now, the plan does show that it will encroach on the right of way. Before they invest the money, LakePoint would like to get the permit before they begin construction.”

LakePoint CEO Neal Freeman displayed the plans for “LakePoint Mountain,” a 4,000 linear foot roller coaster facility.

“Anytime you encroach on a right of way, it’s serious business,” he said. “And serious business requires serious and specific conditions and requirements and tonight we are prepared to place those conditions on this encroachment.”

The conditions include:

•  LakePoint will handle all repairs of utilities in the right-of-way

•  LakePoint will handle all maintenance of the right-of-way

•  LakePoint will indemnify and hold harmless the city in all matters involving encroachment of the right-of-way

•  LakePoint will pay the city an annual fee for the encroachment

McBurnette told the council that an approval simply meant that more information would be gathered to allow a permit.

In other business, council approved a resolution to lease mobile construction trailers for work on the wastewater management facilities.

Last modified onWednesday, 15 February 2017 20:36
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