Hammond council denies zoning change for two lots

The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to deny a zoning change sought for two Whitmar Drive lots in Magnolia Ridge subdivision that would have opened the way for construction of multifamily housing units.

About a dozen residents of Whitmar Acres, one of the city’s largest subdivisions, attended the council meeting to protest the zoning change.

Karen Ott and Pamela Wall, owners of Lots 4 and 5 in Magnolia Ridge, requested the change from R11, a low-density residential classification, to RA, which allows the construction of multifamily units.

Wall told the council that other properties adjacent to their lots had been rezoned RA and that several apartment complexes already exist in the area. Wall said that the lots in question make up an “island” zoned R11 in an area zoned RA.

City Planner Josh Taylor said the city Zoning Commission had recommended denial of the zoning change.

Taylor said residents expressed fear that granting the zoning change would increase the risk of crime, create traffic problems and wind up lowering property values.

Joshua Fletcher, president of the Whitmar Home Owners Association, asserted as many as 18 housing units could be built on the site if the zoning is changed.

“All we want is to preserve a great neighborhood,” Fletcher said, “a fine place to raise a family. We don’t need any more multifamily housing units in our neighborhood.”

The council agreed with Taylor and Fletcher, voting to reject the zoning change request with little discussion.

Other business coming before the council included:

LIQUOR PERMIT: The council unanimously agreed to renew a high and low alcohol permit for 2013 to Your Mom’s Bar and Grill in downtown Hammond.

Final approval of the permit renewal had been held up for several months by the council because of complaints voiced by Police Chief Roddy Devall about the alleged sale of alcoholic beverages to minors at the establishment.

Permit Director Jinnie Wilson said that after a thorough review of Your Mom’s records for the past year, she was satisfied that the owners were meeting the required 60 percent food sale threshold.

COUNCIL ELECTION: Council members voted unanimously to elect Jason Hood as council president and Bobby Martin as council vice president for 2013.

AIRPORT RUNWAY: The council authorized Mayor Mayson Foster to proceed with an agreement for design of an upgraded runway intersection at Hammond Northshore Regional Airport.

Airport Director Jason Ball said that the design work, which is not to exceed $100,000, would be paid for by the state Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division.