A public hearing over a proposed zone change that would allow for the development of a gymnastics facility at Avenue C and 41st Street West tops the agenda for Monday’s Billings City Council business meeting — and the proposal drew a number of letters to council members ahead of Monday's hearing.
Monday's business meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 220 N. 27th St.
According to a memo from Planning Division Manager Monica Plecker, planning staff recommends approving the zone change. But on Dec. 5, 2017, the Zoning Commission unanimously recommended denying the zone change based on three criteria that the city council must also consider for each zone change: accordance with the city’s Growth Policy, whether the new zoning promotes compatible urban growth in the area, and whether the new zoning is the most appropriate use of the land.
Zoning change requests in which the Zoning Commission has recommended disapproval are still heard by the city council.
The gymnastics facility is proposed on about 1.5 acres at 4046 Avenue C. It’s now zoned Residential Professional; the request is to change the zoning to Community Commercial, which would allow for the proposed use by right.
Last week, neighbors who are opposed to the proposed location began lobbying council members.
"The rendering of the proposed building doesn't fit into the neighborhood whatsoever," Matt and Jill Owen wrote to the council. "Sticking an entry canopy and some faux brick or stone on a metal building just doesn't make it fit."
"The area that the gymnastic people want to have the zoning changed in is not large enough for the parking required for their business plan," wrote Bob and Cathy Pasquarello. "We know they will need to park in our residential area — especially when they have meets, etc. They need to build in a commercial, larger area to achieve their business goals, which they indicated they could not afford."
"Many people have invested in this area with assurance through the city codes that their investment will be in an appropriate location with similar businesses grouped together," wrote Martin and Judy O'Neil. "If our city makes this judgement with zoning we should not change. How could our business community ever trust what the city is doing? Please vote no."
If it’s constructed, the gymnastics school will be about 27 feet tall with exterior finishes that tie into those used in neighboring housing units.
In addition to a parking lot with about 90 spaces, the facility would rely on a reciprocal parking agreement with nearby Fuller Family Medicine, which indicated in a letter it would allow gymnasts’ vehicles in its lot evenings and weekend.
The gymnastics site includes one proposed access each to 41st Street West and Avenue C.
Plecker wrote that the area is a mixture of medium-density residential uses adjacent to lower intensity commercial zones and land uses.
During the Zoning Commission’s public hearing, three residents of nearby Julaura Lane expressed concerns about the traffic the facility will generate as well as the wisdom of allowing Community Commercial zoning on a residential street.
Other land use decisions
Two other public hearings are on Monday’s agenda.
The first is on a special review request to allow the location of a 60-foot wireless communications facility with microwave dishes and a future 16-foot antenna on nearly six acres at 1150 Wicks Lane. This facility is within one mile of four other wireless facilities over 50 feet high, necessitating a waiver from the city's one-mile separation requirement. The Zoning Commission recommends conditional approval.
The second hearing is over a zone change — from Residential Professional to Community Commercial — on about 1.4 acres north of Rimrock Road and west of 62nd Street West. A new property owner wants to amend the zoning boundaries to match up with the property line boundaries for the conditionally approved Coal Creek Subdivision. The Zoning Commission recommends approval.
Meeting for the second time in 2018, the council is scheduled to elect a deputy mayor pro tempore, the council member who would fulfill the duties of the mayor and deputy mayor in the event both are, for example, absent from a council meeting.
Among Monday's consent agenda items:
- Approval of the 2018 Part 3 Golf Course budget, which includes increases of $1 (for 9 holes) and $2 (for 18 holes) for golf cart rentals, a 50-cent increase for a bucket of balls and a $25 increase in annual passes.
- The OK of a sale, for $1,300, of a retired police car to Alpha House to allow for the transportation of prisoners from Alternatives and Passages to the Yellowstone County Detention Facility. The sale will allow for the transport of prisoners unaccompanied by police officers.
- The confirmation of probationary police officers Travis Fjetland, John Pearson, Dakota Singh and Nicholas Crowe.
- Approval of more than $19,000 in donations by the Billings Parks, Recreation and Preservation Foundation for three projects: the annual Arbor Day celebration, about $1,200; the Songbird Community Garden near the Josephine Crossing subdivision, about $14,000; and the Amend Park Community Garden, about $3,800.
- Approval of a Feb. 12 public hearing over the proposed $1.4 million project for new curbs and gutters and the reconstruction of some of the city’s Poet Streets, including Highland Park Drive, Longfellow Place, Irving Place, Whittier Place, Emerson Place, Raymond Place and Woodland Drive. The Poet Streets are generally north of Poly Drive and west of Virginia Lane. Multiple sources will pay for the project, including direct property assessments ($241,000) and gas tax funds (about $1.13 million).