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Planners vote no on Ninth Ave. business zoning

Planning Board members Jon Blatt, Steve Johnson and Fred Dutcher listen to a zoning case. Planning Board members Jon Blatt, Steve Johnson and Fred Dutcher listen to a zoning case.

The Hendersonville Planning Board voted 7-1 against a rezoning request that would have allowed medical offices, retail uses and other businesses on Ninth Avenue, with one board member saying he feared opening "a Pandora's box" of unknowns on the mostly residential city street.

Property owner Peter Contrastano sought the rezoning for three lots totaling three quarters of an acre from medium density residential to medical institutional cultural, called MIC zoning. The lots — each around a quarter acre — are too small to allow for residential use under the current R-15 zoning. The undeveloped wooded property is on the south side of Ninth Avenue across from Hendersonville Housing Authority homes at Tebeau Drive.
"I think there are other options," he said after the Planning Board vote. "I think we need to focus on the reality that there are existing structures that could potentially be tattoo shops or whatever use you don't like."
Contrastano referred to a comment from Planning Board member Fred Dutcher, who made the motion to recommend denial of the rezoning. Dutcher said a tattoo parlor or some other incompatible use would be allowed under the MIC zoning. The Planning Board's recommendation goes next to the City Council, which could ratify or overturn it.
Board members voting in favor of Dutcher's motion to deny the rezoning were Ben Pace, Jay Thorndike, Julia Sellers, Jon Blatt, Steve Johnson and Ray Mundy. Voting against the motion was Bill Farrell.
A neighboring resident who spoke said she opposed the rezoning, fearing that it would devalue property.
Contrastano, a former Hendersonville resident who now lives in Seattle, said he had in mind a "live-work combination" where an owner could have a business on the ground floor and a loft apartment upstairs.
"It's similar to Main Street," he said. "We would be doing something that would be more contemporary on the outside but functionally the same inside."
In an email he sent to the Hendersonville Lightning later, Contrastano elaborated on his argument in favor of rezoning.
"Since there are (a) other existing non-residential uses in the vicinity of the lots, (b) the attractiveness of placing additional residential units on lots in the neighborhood has not been popular as witnessed by attempts of other property owners to sell in-fill lots over the past several years, and (c) the approved Comprehensive Plan has earmarked the blocks surrounding Pardee Hospital up to the south side of 9th Ave as Urban Institutional (a classification similar to MIC zoning), the request made to rezone the 9th Ave lots was reasonable in our minds," he said.


".... We do not have a specific development plan in mind. Following MIC rezoning approval, the MIC zoning requirements would be applied at some point in the future by whomever develops the property. From a conceptual perspective, the live-work units' described within the Comprehensive Plan would set a progressive example for the community. Affordable residential studio units and small office/retail introduces diversity to support many needs. Many of the buildings on Main Street are mixed-use examples."