"I think it's a foregone conclusion at this point," said Jeff Boehm, the general manager and a partner in West End Enterprises. He said the company will be considering its options for the property, which he said would be developed primarily for professional offices.
"The parcel is in a prime location. Its value will only increase," he added. West Martin Street and Old Mill Road form part of the boundary to the parcel.
Several nearby residents spoke out against the proposed rezoning during the public hearing. "You have nearly destroyed the area as far as residential living goes," Ron Heflin, a Red Hill Road resident for 20 years, told the commission.
"If you decide to allow this, you'll be sadly mistaken if you don't think someone will be back to change the zoning along King Street" for further commercial development, according to Lee Wolford of Old Mill Road.
"We've been fighting the city for years to keep businesses out of there," said Stella Henry of Old Mill Road.
Boehm tried to reassure the residents and the commission, telling them West End was willing to include a deed restriction on the property prohibiting hotels, motels, warehouses, trailer parks and other potentially objectionable uses. He noted an earlier proposal for a motel had raised "strong opposition."
If the council approves the rezoning, Boehm said West End will subdivide the property again, eliminating the 29 residential lots and reconfiguring it for business use. Even without rezoning, professional offices could be allowed if a special exception was granted by the city.
Boehm, who supports a drive for an interstate interchange to nearby City Hospital, said his plan could improve traffic flow if a road was built from California Avenue along an existing right-of-way to King Street.
"I think a project of this type would definitely hurt our efforts to get the state to locate an interchange for the City Hospital," said Councilman Max Parkinson, a non-voting member of the commission. He said the west end north of King Street should be reserved as much as possible for residential development.
His remarks drew applause from about 40 west end residents attending the meeting. "Obviously, the political rally agrees with you," Boehm remarked.
The motion to recommend rezoning failed on a 4-1 vote, with commission member Jim Castleman voting in its favor. He said some commercial development of the area is likely if an interchange is built for the hospital.