By a 4-1 vote, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) turned down the request of the Benge Development Corporation to change the Future Land Use map for the property partially located at the north corner of Northcliffe Boulevard and Puritan Lane. Benge had planned to build a residential community of 90 homes currently designated as Oak Hill Villas.
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval to the Comprehensive Plan, as well as rezoning the 20-acre parcel preliminarily termed “Oak Hill Villas.”
The BOCC disagreed in the end, citing a major departure of the future development’s features from the rest of the neighborhood. The vote to deny effectively ends the process of the project moving forward.
Commissioners Jeff Holcomb and Wayne Dukes both discussed the rights of private property owners, and how the denial of those rights has landed the BOCC in legal trouble previously. When it came time for the vote, Dukes agreed that the high-density residential development will not fit the current residential landscape. Holcomb was the sole vote in favor to approve the change.
Commissioner Steve Champion considered the rights of the existing property owners, and said, “I think this is a different scenario. Yes, I think the owner of the golf course has a right to come here and ask for rezoning, but what rights do the property owners surrounding it have? I think there’s a reasonable expectation to think that (the property) was going to stay recreational forever. I am usually 99.9% in favor of development, especially if it’s like use. I don’t think this is like use, and I think it should remain recreational.”
Holcomb’s approval of the plan stemmed from the future needs for housing for younger area residents. “We need more diverse housing in this county. That way, some of the folks who are younger… can get into housing and not have to rent, so they can start building their future.”