Tribune-Courier News Editor
Benton’s planning commission voted unanimously against a rezoning proposal for a lot at Sixth and Ash streets at their Aug. 6 meeting.
CFSB bank requested the rezoning to build a parking lot on the tract. Jason Jones of CFSB said the lot was needed to provide a safe parking area for employees. Workers must cross Sixth Street to reach the current parking lot. At last month’s meeting, Jones described the situation as unsafe in the face of traffic with a hill blocking the line of site.
Benton city attorney Martin Johnson recused himself from the discussion because he also serves as counsel for CFSB. Gregory Northcutt, attorney for Calvert City provided guidance for the planning commission during the discussion.
Northcutt said the commission had three questions to consider before ruling on the zoning request to change the lot from residential to commercial.
The planning commission’s last meeting included a public hearing with residential concerns about the rezoning. All residents in the neighborhood expressed opposition to the rezoning.
“The first question to ask is if the map needs to be amended to be in agreement with the comprehensive plan adopted in 2008,” Northcutt said.
While he recognized the corridor of Fifth Street as a commercial area, chairman Bobby Rose said the Sixth Street lot remained in a residential area according to the comprehensive plan.
“I’m seeing this area was intended to be residential, and don’t see anything to override that,” board member Jerry Johnston said.
Board Member Burl Flatt said while CFSB invested a lot of money in its new headquarters, the lot needed to remain residential to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood.
Northcutt asked if the neighborhood experienced any changes since the comprehensive plan was adopted that changed the character of the area.
Rose said the bank did change the neighborhood, but not enough to override the residential designation of the area.
Former Benton Mayor Larry Spears said he attended the meeting to represent the concerns of his brother and sister-in-law who lived in the neighborhood.
“This is a victory for the citizens because their decision maintains the integrity of the neighborhood,” Spears said. “The neighborhood’s been there 20-plus years. I couldn’t understand how they could come to any other decision and change the comprehensive plan.”
Resident Jackie Collie said she was happy with the decision.
“I don’t think any of my neighbors would want a parking lot next door,” Collie said. “Everyone keeps a nice house, and the neighborhood is no place for a parking lot.”