Planning board OKs property annexation

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
The Planning Commission held a Sept. 21 public hearing for and unanimously approved the annexation of two properties at the corner of Airport and Stoltz Hill roads, including a portion of the right-of-way.
The properties, at 970 W. Airport Road and 2010 Stoltz Hill Road, total about .36 acres and include Grampa’s Grocery — a commercial mini-mart — and a single-family dwelling. The designated zoning classification is residential mixed density (Z-RM).
An unidentified planning commissioner asked if the mini-mart could be in a Z-RM, to which Community Development Director Kelly Hart responded in the affirmative. He then asked if the same applied to a gas station.
“That is not consistent with a residential mixed-density standard,” Hart said, “so if a gas station is proposed, they would have to include as part of a development proposal a modification to the zoning of the property.”
The question was raised, presumably, because the Lebanon City Council in May 2021 discussed Grampa’s Grocery’s interest in installing a fuel station, which ultimately led to both the commission and council to approve an amendment to the city’s ordinance allowing fuel stations in mixed-use and industrial zones, including neighborhood mixed-use and neighborhood commercial zones.
Rod Gregory, a resident in the subject neighborhood, asked the commission to inquire about plans and timelines for development on that corner, referring to utility hook-ups, a proposed stoplight and the subject property owner’s plans. Since no development plan was up for discussion, the commission couldn’t answer his questions.
“As far as the annexation goes, I don’t see what the purpose is of annexing, outside of it taking it out of the county control as to state what they can do and dumping it into the hands of the city,” Gregory said.
Resident Derrick Clemming, who lives on 9th Street off Airport Road, asked why the city was “trying to stretch out” the city limits.
Chair Don Robertson explained that the Planning Commission does not demand annexation but, rather, holds hearings when a property owner requests annexation into the city. City Attorney Tré Kennedy also responded, adding that the state requires that the city have an urban growth boundary.
“In other words, we have to have a plan to expand the city, and we are to have identified the areas within that urban growth boundary that are subject to annexation,” Kennedy said.
“That way, to a certain extent, the city can control the growth and where that growth goes. So if it’s within the urban growth boundary, and otherwise subject to the annexation rules, it pretty much basically can get annexed. If it’s not within the urban growth boundary, whether the city wants to or not, it cannot get annexed into the city.”
Clemming said he believed Lebanon was a retirement community (however, the 2020 census indicated that Lebanon’s population is 18,447, with 8,978 residents between ages 20 and 59 and 3,968 at age 65 or higher, making the latter only 4.64% of the population) consisting of people on Social Security who don’t have a lot of money.
He wondered why the city was “doing this,” because these residents couldn’t afford representation or “simply live in a country style.” Why expand, he asked, toward the town’s more rural side instead of where new developments were underway.
Kennedy had to stop Clemming because he was getting into areas of comment that didn’t directly affect the public hearing record regarding the subject property.
“The issues you’re raising,” Kennedy said, “are issues that this commission wants to hear about because we don’t get enough people that come in here and talk. But during the hearing itself, on a specific annexation, it’s really confusing to the record.”
Clemming stressed his concern that a stoplight on the corner of Airport and Stoltz Hill roads wasn’t necessary and would cause traffic hazards.
After the public hearing ended, the commission unanimously agreed that the applicant met the annexation criteria.