Polk County approves TIEC rezoning by split vote

Published 3:55 pm Thursday, June 22, 2017

MILL SPRING – Polk County Commissioners approved a rezoning request for Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) by a 3-2 vote to bring 1.76 acres into the Equestrian Village zoning district (EV).

Commissioners met June 19 and extensively discussed the request for the rezoning. The parcel was previously zoned in the county’s Equestrian (E) district, which is less restrictive in terms of what uses are allowed in the district, but more restrictive on the height of buildings. The EV district allows 60-foot tall buildings, which are measured from the main floor to the eaves while the E district allows 50-foot tall buildings, measured from the main floor to the top of the building.

Commissioners held a public hearing prior to approving the rezoning.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Gray Lancaster brought models of buildings he made to show the difference between how things are measured in each district and what TIEC could be allowed to build in the equestrian village district.

Lancaster said in the EV district nothing prevents someone from building on stilts or above a parking garage to begin the 60 foot measurement from the main floor, or to put a viewing deck or a sponsor clock on top of the building. One of his models was on stilts and he placed a beer can on the top of the roof to illustrate how anything could be built above the eaves of a building in the EV zoning district.

Lancaster also quoted from the Bible and included a handout of the zoning districts at TIEC. He spoke of a house in the area where the view would be blocked if a large building is built within the rezoned 1.76 acres.

“You might say, well just move if you don’t like it,” Lancaster said. “None of us came here with dreams of selling out to the horse park. This is where we wanted to retire, live, watch the sunset or plant pecan trees.”

Lancaster said the area is already zoned E, which allows 50 foot tall structures, which is already 10 feet higher than anyone else in the county can build.

“The other thing is, I really don’t think you’d vote yes if this was happening next door to you,” he said.

During the public hearing, commissioner Ray Gasperson asked if the specific reason for the request to EV was for the height of the buildings.

County planner Cathy Ruth said she is not sure as the county hasn’t seen plans on the heights of the buildings in that section.

TIEC Vice President of Facilities Jeff Brown said TIEC does not have plans for that building yet, but did say it will be a residential condominium on that site. Gasperson asked how many stories TIEC is planning. Brown answered three to four stories, depending on the height of each floor.

County attorney Jana Berg told Gasperson several times during the discussion that the discussion needs to strictly be about the rezoning of the property. She said TIEC can put whatever they want as long as it’s allowed in that zoning district.

“You have to look at the zoning district they are asking for and determine whether all the uses in that district are ok,” Berg said. “They have the right to put anything within that zoning classification.”

During citizen comments on the item, Ira Karet said in listening to the comments he gets the impression no one really understands the difference between the districts and suggested postponing the vote until everyone understands.

Lancaster added during citizen comments that another concern of his is the county’s lack of fire equipment to reach a building allowed as high as in the equestrian districts.

There are requirements for sprinkler systems in buildings.

During the commissioners’ discussion prior to the vote, no one originally made a motion to approve. Commissioner Shane Bradley made the motion after some silence and commissioner Myron Yoder seconded.

Commissioner vice chair Jake Johnson said he’d like to read more into the differences between the two districts before he voted and asked if the board would postpone the vote.

Commissioner chair Tommy Melton agreed and said he’d like to see the vote delayed.

Berg said Bradley could either amend his motion to table the vote or the board would need to go forward with the motion on the table following discussion about the possibility of postponing the vote until another meeting.

Bradley said he’s “not a big fan of zoning, period.” He said TIEC has come to the county and asked for a zoning that is more restrictive.

“For me, it’s hard to tell someone what they can and can’t do with their property,” Bradley said.

Berg said if Bradley went forward with the motion to approve and the motion is denied, there is a time period before TIEC could ask for the rezoning again. The second application would also need to go through the same channels, including through the planning board’s approval and a county public hearing.

Bradley called for the vote on his motion with the motion to rezone being approved by Bradley, Yoder and Gasperson. Melton and Johnson voted against the motion to rezone.