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Business expansion caught in zoning quandary
by by Jebb Johnston
Apr 05, 2014 | 268 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Margaret Bradley wants to comply with all of the city’s regulations as she expands her business, but it’s impossible for her to do so on annexed property that does not have city water service.

Appealing a board of adjustment rejection of her application for a zoning variance, she brought her dilemma before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Tuesday.

Bradley wants to build a banquet type facility next to her photography studio at 2103 Highway 72 East. It would host receptions and activities in conjunction with the photography business, and the facility would require a commercial sprinkler. But the property is serviced by the Alcorn Water Association, and the rural system does not provide adequate water pressure for the operation of a commercial sprinkler.

It is “a unique problem that is not of her own making,” said attorney Bill Davis, addressing the city board on behalf of Bradley.

“She finds herself in the position of being a city taxpayer inside the city limits under the auspices of having the building code apply to her but unable to comply with the code for the reason that the tools necessary to comply haven’t been given to her,” he said.

Davis quoted from the annexation ordinance adopted in 1993, which said the city would make certain improvements in the annexed areas within five years. The ordinance said the city would “acquire, interconnect and upgrade certificated water utility systems now serving annexed customers as necessary, legally possible and financially feasible; develop, extend and expand the municipal water utility systems as warranted by development of the area served so as to provide an adequate water supply for fire fighting purposes …”

The building code “presupposes city water” is available, he said.

The attorney said the intent is not to point fingers.

“I’m sure there are legitimate reasons for not” extending water to this property, said Davis, “but it does lay the groundwork for what her predicament is … If the city had extended the water lines as it was said in the ordinance that it was going to do, we wouldn’t be here.”

He suggested the board either exempt Bradley from the sprinkler requirement, allow her to instead install a residential-grade sprinkler or extend city water to the property.

The latter would require the Alcorn Water Association to relinquish its service rights to the property — which Bradley said the association is willing to do — but she said Corinth Gas & Water has indicated they could not service the property because of the expense and other reasons. Davis said there are obstacles in getting to the property including a creek and the Kimberly Clark Parkway. A different route to the property would require boring under the highway.

The issue previously led to a lengthy discussion before the city’s board of adjustment/planning commission. Lee Thurner, a member of that advisory body, said he reluctantly made the motion to recommend denial of the variance.

“It seems to me that the city here is derelict,” he said. “It annexed the property 20 years ago with the promise that city utilities would be extended to this property, and they never have.”

He suggested de-annexing the property, thus taking it out from under the city building code requirements, might be the best solution. Davis said Bradley is open to that possibility.

City Attorney Wendell Trapp said the city is providing fire protection to the property, and a couple of board members indicated they are not inclined to make a zoning exception on a safety matter.

However, “Ms. Bradley should have the same opportunities in a zoned areas as anyone else has,” said Ward 3 Alderman Chip Wood.

The board tabled the discussion with plans to get input from Corinth Gas & Water.
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