Neighbors resist PUD-zoning deal with Miller Electric

Neighbors resist PUD-zoning deal with Miller Electric
Gilmore Street bungalows undergoing renovations

Miller Electric is attempting to sell several adjacent parcels in Riverside’s Five Points neighborhood that it used to call home, before relocating to the Southside.

Real estate is very valuable in the neighborhood and several tenants and others could be potential buyers, or not. Miller’s representatives were uncertain, during an April 11 meeting with area residents arranged by City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor, as to who may eventually occupy the property or for what uses.

Representatives from The Southern Group, who said there are no plans for new construction, focused on Miller’s application to consolidate zoning and land use designations among the parcels, some of which have flexible planned unit development (PUD) zoning, the terms of which are negotiated with city planners, and others with community general commercial (CGC) zoning.

But the land use is what has sparked opposition from nearby residents. Miller seeks to change the land use on two parcels from commercial general to light industrial, which they fear will be more intensive.

Robin Lumb, a former city councilman who resides on Gilmore Street, fears the requested PUD zoning and light industrial land use is an attempt by Miller to maximize the resale value of their property at the expense of the neighborhood’s quality of life. 

He said it may also be a way to avoid compliance with the historic district’s residential overlay that he says encourages residential redevelopment over commercial redevelopment.

“At Monday’s meeting representatives from the Southern Group admitted the only reason for the proposed re-zoning was to make it easier for Miller Electric to sell the property and to sell it at a higher price,” Lumb said by email to the councilwoman. “While I respect Miller Electric’s right to seek the best possible price for its property, this is hardly a compelling rationale for a major re-zoning. If satisfying the desire to maximize resale value becomes the acceptable standard for a commercial re-zoning, there’s no logical stopping point. Any commercial property owner looking to boost resale value could use the same rationale to demand a zoning change anywhere else in the city.”

Top from left: Chris Hagan, Taylor Mejia and Councilwoman Randy DeFoor meet with residents on April 11, 2022
Top from left: Chris Hagan, Taylor Mejia and Councilwoman Randy DeFoor meet with residents on April 11, 2022

Miller’s representatives, Chris Hagan and Taylor Mejia, countered this month that current zoning would permit up to six stories. Residents may translate that as a threat to add yet another large cube storage facility in the neighborhood, said Riverside Avondale Preservation’s Director Shannon Blankinship.

Mr. Lumb certainly took it that way. He said residents should not be expected to “negotiate with themselves” to reach a compromise to achieve the requested zoning and land use changes.

Mr. Hagan and Ms. Mejia said their client is willing to negotiate on terms of a potential PUD agreement with the city. They said it could include traffic and pedestrian safety improvements, less on-street parking and the like, to please neighbors.

What neighbors would like to see is the continuation of a pattern now underway on Gilmore — the exit of a former ambulance company and the ongoing rehabilitation of several bungalows. That should mean more residential housing that is in such short supply, making living here unaffordable for many.

Another meeting with Miller representatives was scheduled for April 27, said Ms. Blankinship, at 4 p.m. at 214 N. Hogan St. downtown.

“More to come though,” said Councilwoman DeFoor’s executive assistant Brooks Dame on April 20. “Miller is revising their exhibits and then we’ll review and have additional meetings as necessary.”

By Joel Addington
Resident Community News

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