Residents fear loss of 'country atmosphere'

Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Photo by Clint Confehr Jeff Poarch addresses the Lewisburg City Council to advocate annexation of land on which he plans to develop 50 to 60 new homes.

The Lewisburg City Council appears ready to annex about 15 acres between Yell Road and Mechanico Trail, just across the city line south of South Ellington Parkway, where new homes could be built.

Nearby residents opposed the annexation during a public hearing conducted last month. Several plan to observe the final vote on the annexation request at the council's meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday next week.

"We just don't want to see homes on small lots," Rebecca Blackall of Yell Road said on Friday. "We want to preserve what gives the area that country feeling. Our whole concern is the country atmosphere."

Jeff Poarch, one of the developers of the property, told the City Council, "I'm not in the business of making people mad. This property is right off the bypass. It's not in the country."

Annexation opponent Carolyn Cook replied, "I would like to keep it rural."

Poarch faced other opponents of the annexation, including Jennifer Elrod, and Blackall's husband, Donald. They questioned whether a traffic study had been done.

"That's up to the engineers," Poarch replied. "And 50-60 houses is not a big traffic load."

The property to be annexed adjoins other land planned for the subdivision. That 30-acre tract fronts South Ellington Parkway. Land accessible to the parkway may be developed for commercial purposes, the developer has said.

Regardless of whether the land is annexed, or not, there will probably be a housing subdivision developed there, Poarch said.

Donald Blackall said the 15 acres won't percolate, so it can't be developed, but Poarch replied that he has access to city utilities.

A couple of differences between development in the city and without annexation have been noted during the public discussion on the annexation request.

Poarch presented one in the form of a question: "Why wouldn't the city want the property tax?"

City Manager Eddie Fuller pointed out that residents of the planned subdivision who are not in the city, if annexation is denied, would pay more for their water and sewer service.

Some opponents' statements revealed a lack of understanding about housing subdivision development.

One complained that the city would spend a great deal of money on installation of utilities because of annexation. That's not so. Developers install pipes and other utilities in accordance with standards set by municipalities. Once they're approved as meeting such tests, the utilities' ownership is turned over to the municipality or the utility.

"The developer puts in the utilities," Fuller said.

Poarch added, "The developer has to pay for every dime of it."

Nancy McCullough lives near Cook and the Blackalls and asked the council what the city would do for annexed property.

Mayor Bob Phillips replied that police, fire and garbage service would be extended to new residents. Street lights would be maintained, as will the roads once they're accepted as having been built to city specifications.

Annexation ordinances require three successful votes for land to be taken in by the city. Councilwoman Quinn Brandon moved to approve the annexation ordinance for the second time. Councilman Phil Sanders seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

A third and final vote is scheduled for Jan. 8 in City Hall.