By Brandon Martin
It’s not uncommon to see a massive line of cars spilling out of Biscuitville’s parking lot onto Virginia Avenue during the morning commute, but that sight could be a thing of the past with the franchise planning to relocate operations to a lot closer to the U.S. 220 bypass.
The new location, across from Bryant’s Radio in Collinsville, would offer more space for customers to assemble, and with the final approval of a rezoning request, more parking as well.
The Henry County Planning Commission unanimously approved an application to rezone approximately 0.59-acres from suburban residential to commercial during a March 10 meeting.
The applicant requested the rezoning for additional parking in conjunction with a future Biscuitville restaurant to be located at 3424 Virginia Avenue.
“We’ve been operating in Collinsville since 1975. It was one of our first Biscuitvilles and it’s time for a new home,” said Blake Jennings, senior director of development and facilities for eatery. “We’ve had some issues with stacking. You’ve probably seen our cars. They back out into the road. This site is going to work out great for us and kind of eliminate some of those factors.”
Jennings said the new building will be equipped with a double drive-thru “so we can get double the stack off of the road.
“Honestly, it just gives us more parking so we’re not backing out into the road,” he added.
Jennings said the franchise doesn’t intend to use the rezoned lot to build any new structures.
“We’re going to properly screen it. We’ve been a good neighbor,” Jennings said.
There was only one other comment received regarding the rezoning in the form of a letter by sisters and property owners Deborah Treherne and Marietta Gunter.
“We are concerned about trash being thrown over the fence that currently exists, which has been an ongoing problem,” the letter stated, and the two asked that Biscuitville provide a new fence or wall to prevent this problem, and to add “sufficient lighting to prevent nightly use of the parking lot after the restaurant closes.”
Jennings said a lighting study will be conducted as part of planning phase. Information gleaned from the study will help determine the amount of light that would bleed over onto adjacent properties.
He said precautions will be taken to ensure surrounding properties aren’t negatively affected by the business lights.
“It’s a safety thing for us too,” Jennings said. “Our employees get in at 3 or 4 in the morning. They need a safe lot to get into.”
The Henry County Board of Supervisors will make the final decision at the March 23 meeting.
The planning commission also heard two other matters, each of which also will require final decisions from the board of supervisors.
In one proposal, R21-05, the applicant requested the rezoning of 12-acres from suburban residential to rural residential. The applicant, Donna Mellott, intends to remove an old house from the property and replace it with a manufactured home.
“The home is over 100 years old,” said Lee Clark, director of Planning, Zoning and Inspections for the county. “With the physical attributes of that property and the physical condition that it’s in, it’s not realistic to try to create and raise that house. Currently, you basically have stacked rocks as the foundation. There is no footing under a house like that. Houses like that don’t do well when they are tried to be lifted or even moved, because they’ve settled so much over the last 100 years that nothing is where it was.”
Clark said the main issue is that all the surrounding property is zoned as suburban residential. He said the county has three residential zoning classifications and one agricultural classification.
According to Clark, suburban residential only allows for site-built homes or modular homes, which are built in a factory to building code standards and relocated to the property. Rural residential allows for all types of homes, including single-wide homes. Mixed residential doesn’t allow for single-wide homes but it does permit double-wide homes.
“The applicant wishes to put a single-wide mobile home on the property. When you look at the surrounding community and the character of that district, it’s suburban residential,” he said. “It’s not rural residential, it’s not agricultural. Years ago, we created zoning for mixed residential that is sort of in between suburban and rural. When you’re talking about putting a single-wide mobile home out there, to me it is out of character. I wish we were talking about mixed residential, because then you’re looking at a double-wide manufactured home with a permanent foundation, and it would blend in with whatever else is out there.”
Clark said his recommendation was for the property to either remain suburban residential or for Mellott to amend her application to mixed residential.
Mellott said she had specific reasons why a single-wide home is preferable for her situation.
“I’ll be turning 65 in May. I had to quit my job a year ago to take care of both of my parents,” she said. “The home that I live in, which I’ve been in for over 20 years, has just lost its life. I only get Social Security (income). I have no other real income. My parents help me pay some bills here and there, but the reason I’m going with the single-wide is because I can’t afford to buy a double-wide home.”
Glenwood Vaughn, of the Iriswood District, said she sympathized with Mellot’s circumstances, but “we have to consider all of the neighbors and all of the adjoining property. We can’t see anything besides mixed residential if it were to change. It’s just the way the land use is and that’s what we have to go by.”
“It’s a wonderful thing that you are doing,” said Paul Setliff, of the Ridgeway District. “As much as our heart might want to do something, this board always makes decisions on land use period. This is a really hard decision” but ultimately “we are going to make decisions based on the codes of Henry County and what we are supposed to do.”
The planning commission unanimously denied the request for rezoning.
The final case brought before the planning commission was for the rezoning of 5.6 acres in the Blackberry District, from rural residential to agricultural to allow for a chicken coop.
A letter by the applicant, Christina Porter, noted the coop would house 10 laying hens with no roosters on the property.
Given the distance from the neighbors of the proposed site, Porter said surrounding property owners won’t “be able to see, hear or smell the chickens.”
Additionally, the eggs would only be used for personal consumption, and the waste would be used to improve the land over time.
“The majority of properties along the road are suburban residential. Behind those properties is agricultural,” Clark said. “It exhibits a lot of the characteristics of agricultural property. It’s off the road, several hundred feet off the road. The other houses that are agricultural next to this are also several hundred feet back off the road.”
Clark said once a property is zoned agricultural, there is no limitation on what type of agricultural animals can be kept on the land.
Stella Via, an adjacent property owner, spoke against the rezoning for this reason.
“The thing about it that concerns me is, yes she wants to raise chickens” but after it is agricultural, “that’s not to say that she won’t have other animals out there like horses, cows, pigs or whatever,” Via said. “When you have chickens, or what have you, it can draw rats. I was raised on a farm and my dad had something like a crib. It drew rats, mice and he had to keep a black snake in there to make sure the mice didn’t transfer from home to home.”
Given the potential for those concerns, Via said, “it’s kind of disrespectful of the ones that have lived here for many years.”
Porter, as a new resident to the area, said it wasn’t her intent to be disrespectful.
“My family has lived in an apartment for pretty much our entire lives,” she said. “My kids have really been looking forward to hopefully having chickens, being able to raise them and farm fresh eggs. We don’t want anything that is going to draw in pests. We’d make sure to put in a shed to prevent rats, snakes and whatever else.”
Given the lay of the land, Porter said it would be virtually impossible to have any other animals on the land, aside from chickens. Plus, the applicant indicated she didn’t intend on having other animals.
Since the surrounding land is already agricultural, Setliff said the same criticisms could apply to all the other property owners as well.
“You’re sort of saying, we’ve got this, and we won’t do it, but we’ve got an issue with someone else having it agricultural,” Setliff said.
Hal Dee West, of the Blackberry District, said he didn’t see a “solid reason” not to grant the rezoning.
Richard Reynolds, of the Horsepasture District, also noted that regardless of the intent of the current property owners who live on the surrounding agricultural land, future owners could have different plans.
“I’ve seen it happen many times. Those of you who have land that is zoned agricultural, and you want to turn it over to your children,” Reynolds said. “Your children don’t live on it. Some live here, some may not. Then along comes someone who wants to lease the farming rights from your children and all your children can see is money coming in, so they lease the farming rights. That person can then come in and put any animals that they want to go on that property.”
The planning commission unanimously approved the rezoning.