Joint Meeting with Council & Planning Board July 29,2019

Village of Forest Hills
Joint Planning Board & Council Meeting Work Session
Monday, July 29, 2019 – 6:00 pm
WCU Health & Human Sciences Bldg., Room 204


The following members of the Council were present:

Mayor Kolleen Begley

Councilmember Niall Michelsen

Councilmember Clark Corwin

Councilmember Jonathan Brooks


The following members of the Planning Board were present:

Jack Brown

Mark Ellison

Diane Martinez


The following Non-Council/Planning Board members were Present: 

Tim Eckert, Village homeowner running for Village Council

Chris Green, Village Property Owner

Todd Baucom, Realtor

Caroline Lafrienier, Jackson County Planning Dept.

Anthony Fox, Municipal Attorney with Parker & Poe


The joint work session of the Council and Planning Board is being held to review and get input on potential changes to the Future Land Use map.  Anthony Fox of Parker Poe Law Firm, the attorney for Forest Hills, is present to explain any legal implications (if any) of changes or no changes at this point.  In response to requests from residents, this will be the third session for the public to attend to learn about the process of updating a Future Land Use Map and/or ordinance in place and give public input on it.  This is a follow-up meeting to the last Planning Board meeting where Mike Poston, Director of the Jackson County Planning Dept., attended to review different ways to accomplish potential changes from the planning/ordinance perspective, and the joint Council & Planning Board meeting prior to that where Mike Poston also attended to summarize for the public the required steps necessary for any rezoning request in Forest Hills. 

Mayor Begley provided an overview of the past meetings and decisions leading up to the future land use map and the adoption of conditional zoning 5 years ago, as well as the recent change in public opinion about future land use. Mayor Begley reviewed the process and findings of the community charette held in November of 2014.  She noted that participants were hopeful for some green space to be left in the valley that all of the residences surround, and that they expressed a desire for Forest Hills to have a gathering space, a community center, senior-living and other housing options, and the potential for greenway connections. Mayor Begley reviewed a summary of the Village’s Mixed-Use Ordinance (Section 3.8 Zoning Ordinance) which is site-specific on a project by project basis and includes a list of permitted uses.  Mayor Begley also gave an overview of a previous offer in 2013 by the property owner of the parcel known as “the valley” to then Mayor Wallace for the Village to purchase the 72+ acre property at $1.5M.  At that time, Mayor Wallace had data that the purchase of the property would increase property taxes anywhere from $840 - $1,020 per household per year which did not include any cost for liability insurance, maintenance or other.  The public consensus as shown in the meeting minutes from a public hearing about that potential purchase was that purchasing the property would be fiscally irresponsible and that by a show of hands at that meeting, nobody present was in favor of the purchase. 

Residents recent response on record has been to ask that the Council not make any future changes to the current Zoning Map and to consider an update to the Future Land Use Map.

 Mayor Begley stated that the Zoning Map is law, and that the Future Land Use map is an idea only for future councilmembers to consider if there were to be a formal application submitted.  

Councilmember Brooks reiterated that any green space or community gathering space could not be in an R-1 zoning district, that only single-family homes would be allowed in that zoning district. 

Councilmember Corwin read the Village Mission/Vision statement adopted based on the desires of the majority of Village residents.  He noted that the Village Mission/Vision statement has been on the home page of the website since its adoption in 2014. 

Councilmember Michelsen said that whatever decisions are made will have consequences and that board members need to be aware of this and make informed decisions.

Mayor Begley stated that there has also been interest expressed in pursuing a 55+ community development as a future development idea to pass on to the owner of the valley. Council discussed that covenants could be set to create a 55+ senior living area under R-1 if requirements are met.

 Council discussed the Future Land Use Map and Attorney Anthony Fox stated that the map is a guiding principle, it does not give absolute authority.  He also stated that a governing body must treat all residents fairly and consider all the options presented.  Mayor Begley said that any property owner can request rezoning via a formal application through the county, but the board has no obligation to approve the request.  The process for requesting rezoning begins with submitting the required application to the Jackson County Planning Dept. and then the Forest Hills Planning Board reviews the application and makes a recommendation to the Council to approve or not approve and the Council reviews and makes the decision.

 Tim Eckert asked what restrictions are placed on conservation easements.  Council discussed inviting someone familiar with the requirements and restrictions to speak on that at a future meeting as well as speak about other potential options available.

Chris Green, property owner of the valley property, and his realtor Todd Baucom said the valley property is listed for sale with a pending future development approval because they feel that Jackson County needs more housing options. Chris stated that he has made challenging changes to his development ideas because of Forest Hills difficult ordinance. Mayor Begley addressed Chris Green stating that if he sold the valley property that there could potentially be enough funds for him to do development in another area of the county that may not have as stringent of ordinances. He said that he has made changes to his previous plan based on residents’ feedback and is looking at further changes to add assisted living options. 

Councilmember Corwin asked that Chris Green review the zoning, ordinances, and process requirements prior to submitting his application. 

Councilmember Corwin made a motion to adjourn at 7:45pm, Councilmember Michelsen seconded the motion, unanimously approved.