Sparks Debate

By ANTHONY WARREN,

Questions surround future use of parking lot at Meadowbrook.

The future of two rezoning requests for the Meadowbrook Office Park could come down to what owners want to do with a parking lot located at the northeast corner of the property.

Developer Clint Herring is asking the city to rezone the office park’s four parcels from residential and commercial to CMU-1, a community mixed-use designation.

Herring said the rezoning is needed to make the office park more competitive with newer developments.

Steve Smith, an attorney for Meadowbrook East, countered that argument, saying rezonings aren’t allowed under city statute just to make property more competitive. Rather, he says the ordinance requires applicants to show a change in character of an area or a mistake in the original zoning.

Herring says there have been approximately 25-30 rezonings in the area in recent years, including the rezoning of property south of Meadowbrook Road to allow for the District at Eastover.

CMU-1 classification would allow the current office park, which is entirely made up of office buildings, to have a myriad of new uses, including restaurant, retail and residential.

“We’re positioning the property for what we think is the highest and best use at that location,” he said.

Most neighbors are not opposed to Herring’s plans in full but are concerned about the future of a parking lot located at the northeast corner of the site.

Plans for the lot have not been made official, but Herring has discussed with neighbors re-purposing the site for use as a retirement facility.

Residents in the Meadowbrook East neighborhood protest those plans because it would likely mean that the streets in their subdivision would be open to through-traffic.

The subdivision is located directly east of the office park. It includes zero lot line homes and town homes on three streets: Autumn Ridge Drive, Meadow Knoll Drive and Winwood Drive.

Meadow Knoll dead-ends into the parking lot, while Autumn Ridge dead-ends beside it.

If any large-scale development, like a retirement facility, is constructed, the streets would likely have to be opened up to provide quick access for fire, police and other first responders.

Currently, the parking lot is only accessible by the office park’s existing entrances, including one on Meadowbrook Road and one on Old Canton Road.

Herring, president of the Kerioth Corporation, though, said opponents are unfairly attempting to block his ability to use the public streets.

Kerioth is the parent company of Park Central One and Park Central II, the companies that applied for the rezoning.

Herring further states that under the parking lot’s current zoning classification, he could build a 10-story apartment building, something that would have a greater impact on the neighborhood than a three-story retirement center.

“As we sit today, we could build one over 10 stories tall, as long as it was either multi-family apartments or condos,” he said. “In our request to the city, we told the city and the neighbors that we would restrict that property to no more than three stories tall.

Smith said Herring’s claims are a red herring.

“If he had the market there and he was able to do it, he would’ve done it,” he said. “That’s a red herring.”

Smith said opening the dead-end streets would destroy his clients’ neighborhood. “The only reason they’re able to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood is because the streets are closed. Open one or more of those streets and the neighborhood is done.”

John Morgan Hughes, president of the LOHO homeowners’ association, agrees that the streets in Meadowbrook East should not be opened. “Those people live on a quiet, dead-end street, it’s not right to run commercial ingress and egress in the area,” he said.

Hughes said LOHO’s board does not want to be seen as “anti-development,” but still has questions for the developer to answer.

“The consensus is if this is like the Township, a quality development that brings additional cultural attractions and retail to the area, we would support it,” he said. “We would like to see a site plan and we have not seen it.”

Hughes was referring to the Township at Colony Park, a mixed-use development located in Ridgeland. That project also was constructed the Kerioth Corporation.

Meadowbrook Office Park is currently divided into four parcels. Along Old Canton/I-55 North frontage road, the parcels are zoned C-2 and C-1 commercial. The parking lot at the northeast corner is zoned R-4 residential, while a parking located on the southeast corner of the development along Meadowbrook is zoned R-3.

The park includes five office buildings. The two largest were formerly home to the Baker Donelson firm, which relocated to the District in 2016.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote supports the rezoning the commercial sites but has questions about the request to rezone the parcels that are currently residential.

“The office par is about half empty, so they need to do something to find tenants,” he said. “They may need to try and reinvent some of the space.”

The CMU-1 classification allows for “residential uses along with compatible, low-intensity commercial uses to serve adjacent residential areas.”

Uses allowed include commercial day care centers, hotels, retail stores greater than 3,000 square feet, offices with 2,500 square feet or more of floor area, general restaurants, fast-food restaurants, colleges, health clubs, department stores, shopping centers and theaters, as well as all uses allowed under the less-dense neighborhood mixed-use, or NMU, districts.

Single-family, multi-family homes, mixed-use buildings, bed and breakfast inns, retirement homes and nursing homes are allowed under NMU regulations.

Jackson’s planning board approved the rezoning request in August. The decision was appealed to the Jackson City Council, which will hear the case at its October 21 zoning meeting.

The meeting is slated for 2:30 p.m., at Jackson City Hall.

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