Picayune board hears zoning complaints Tuesday

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

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Protracted arguments over zoning ordinances took up most of the Picayune City Council meeting on Tuesday.

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The first big discussion concerned outdoor digital signs. Diane Miller, the city’s planning and zoning director, requested city council approval for Leonard Busby’s conditional use of an electronic sign. The sign would be located on the 3300 block of Highway 11 North. The city has an ordinance that forbids two electronic billboards within a mile of each other, and Blanning, LLC, a second billboard company, had already been given an informal go-ahead to erect a sign on the same block, said attorney Bill Cruse, who represented Blanning.

“He said (city manager) Jim Luke told him it would be subject to passing sight exam,” Cruse said. “Which it was.”

However, Busby then went through a more formal route for approval and asked the planning commission to sign off on a variance for his sign.

Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero seemed ready to sign off on both signs, starting with the Busby request and then approving a Blanning request for variance at a later date.

“I would think we can vote to approve the other one also and leave it there,” he said. “It just hasn’t been brought to us, if it needs to be. … If it has to come before us, then I wouldn’t vote against it.”

Councilman Larry Breland said he, too, wants to do what’s fair and he supported both signs.

However, attorney Buddy McDonald, who is also representing Blanning, said neither company wants both companies to get variances. As they are competing billboard companies, putting two electronic signs at the same location is in neither company’s best interest. What both companies are seeking is to get their billboard approved within a restricted one-mile space.

“Being fair to both parties in this case may not necessarily mean giving it to both parties,” said McDonald. “And to be frank there’s a lot of facts and issues that Mr. Blanning could bring out and Mr. Busby too maybe that would weigh on the thing.”

In the end, the city council kicked the whole issue back to the planning commission. The issue will be taken up by that board in December and it’s likely the city council will get a decision at their second meeting that month. Cruse asked that his client be given an extra month as he will be out of the country for the next two-and-a-half weeks.

The second contentious planning and zoning issue regarded home offices.

Sheriff’s deputy Joe Quave asked for a home occupation license from the planning commission, and they passed that request along to the council. Quave, who spoke Tuesday, said he wants to use part of his home to run a private gun training business, though he made clear no training will take place at his home.

“Nothing will be going on there except for receiving mail,” he said. “Nothing will be going on there, no training and no shooting.”

The council approved the license without comment.
The council got a planning commission request from Barbara Shute for the same license so she can operate her realty company from her home on Country Club Drive.

She told the board, “All I want to do is hang a license on my wall and keep my records at home. No business will be transacted at my home.”

As a real estate agent, she said her business is conducted at client’s homes or at a coffee shop. Her request, too, was approved.

However, later in the meeting, about a dozen residents from her neighbors. Joe Morrison spoke for the group, and he said restrictive neighborhood covenants forbade any resident of the neighborhood from operating a business from their home. He told the board he had collected 31 signatures of homeowners who sought to block Shute’s license.

“Given another two weeks we could probably have 50 or 60 names,” Morrison said. He asked Pinero what the homeowners could do.

Council member Tammy Valente, who is a realtor, asked Morrison what concerns he had. She pointed out that she began her real estate career out of her home, and she said her neighbors didn’t even know.

“When I started my real estate business, no one ever came to my home, no one ever knew I was doing it. I worked out of my home until I built up enough money until I could work out of my office,” she said. “That is exactly how I opened my office, and I personally cannot vote against something that I was given the privilege of getting. …. It hasn’t affected my subdivision and I don’t think anyone even knew I had it.”

Morrison argued that he believed Shute could afford to rent an office, and he said he feared she would not be able to “maintain what she claims she’s going to be able to maintain.”

He also added that he heard another homeowner in the area is “selling tea cakes and cupcakes” from her home.

“I think maybe we have had our heads stuck in the sand,” he said. “’Cause we weren’t notified of this sort of thing. Now that we’ve been notified, we find out there’s a lot of things going on.”

Later in the meeting, Morrison put it in even plainer language.

“We believe she intends to do good, but we don’t believe she can,” he said.

Valente said, “I have spoken to your president and she does not have a problem with this. Do you realize that? I have spoken to your president and your vice president.”

“That’s because she has a business,” a woman in the back yelled.

At the end of it, Pinero said he would look at the covenants, which Morrison provided.

And finally in the meeting, Rev. John L. Goss criticized the council’s earlier planning and zoning request to locate an “asphalt and concrete plant” at 815 N. Beech St.

Goss said residents who live at the end of Goodyear Boulevard resent having more industrial sites placed near their homes.

“They’re bringing everything to Goodyear,” Goss said. “There’s other places they could take it. I don’t know if the city doesn’t consider Goodyear to be part of the city. I don’t know what’s going on. … There are other places in Picayune where things can go.”

Also Tuesday, the council approved some out-of-state travel for two fire department employees.

The next meeting will be Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.