The Neosho City Council considered two rezoning requests Tuesday evening and voted on first reading to deny both.
The two requests had already gone before the Planning and Zoning Commission on April 1, though that commission recommended that council strike down the proposed zoning changes.
The first request came from Great Southern Bank, and asked that the former Ford car dealership, located at 222 South Business 49, be rezoned from C-3 Commercial Business District to M-1, Light Industrial District, to allow for Quality Petroleum, based out of Little Rock, Ark. to open a warehouse operation in the facility.
However, Howard Birdsong, who was representing both property owner Great Southern Bank and prospective buyer Quality Petroleum, told council on Tuesday that he now believes the decision to file for M-1 rezoning was a mistake.
"I think the rezoning application was probably a mistake," Birdsong said. "With the nature of the business it should still be C3."
Birdsong said at the time of the application Quality Petroleum had no retail plans for the site, however, they later changed their mind, and now intend to use the space as retail and warehouse.
"Since those initial discussions we talked to quality petroleum and they have retail operations in other facilities and they have agreed to make it a warehouse retail operation, similar to a couple other businesses we have in town," Birdsong said.
"I feel like the horse has already left the barn here," said mayor pro tem Steve Hart. "Because you got denied this company decided to change its operation, I question, is that the only reason they changed their operation just so they get this building? If this truly is an industrial company, which I would love to see come to Neosho, is there not a better location?"
Birdsong said Quality Petroleum, which acts as a distributor of consumer transport and industrial lubricants, would have a retail set up in Neosho similar to stores such as AutoZone or O'Reilly Auto Parts, while the external tanks outside would be similar to what could be seen at some area gas stations, such as the former Oak Tree Mart.
John Harrington, the city's code enforcement officer, said three local property owners attended the April 1 public hearing to protest the zoning change, while another property owner submitted a letter opposing the rezoning.
"Some of the concerns that were cited were property values of the surrounding area, or a possible eye sore as people come into town," Harrington said.
He said the Planning and Zoning commission based their recommendation on two items, with one being the city's future land use map.
"Back in 2005, they created a future land use map as part of our planning to help in future zone cases," Harrington said.
He said the commission also reasoned that the city does not do spot zoning.
Page 2 of 2 - With the council's unanimous no vote on M-1 rezoning, the company will now pursue a business license in the commercial district.
Birdsong said if approved the company plans to use an 18,000 square-foot open space as bulk storage, while an approximately 3,600 square-foot area in the front building, once used as a show room and offices for the car dealership, would serve as the retail area. He said there would also be exterior construction, of a 2,100 square-foot concrete pad on the south end of the building that would house the external tanks.
He said initially there would be six tanks, approximately 8,000-gallon capacity, which would be used to transfer fluid into smaller containers.
While area residents were concerned about the eyesore of tanks sitting out, Birdsong said a wall would be built on the west side of the building to screen the tanks from site.
"The tanks will not exceed the height of the roof and they will not be visible from west, from the north or the south," Birdsong said.
Dana Daniel, the city's director of development services, said before the city issues a business license they need a guarantee that the facility will be used for commercial purposes.
"We have asked for a letter of commitment from him before we proceed with a license," Daniel said. "What that means is the business is basically committing to the fact they will follow all the qualifications of that C-3 zone."
Meanwhile, council members also heard from Neosho resident David McGarrah, who had applied to rezone a portion of his property at 819 Rocketdyne Road from R-1 First Dwelling House District to C-3 Commercial Business District, to allow for a billboard to be put up on his property.
Harrington said 14 local property owners attended the public hearing April 1 to protest the rezoning, which Planning and Zoning recommended the council deny.
He said the city cannot rezone only sections of property,and that the entire piece of McGarrah's property would have had to be rezoned.