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Zoning change on Airline Drive worries residents

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By Sean Green & Stacey Tinsley, newsroom@bossierpress.com

A zoning change to attract new restaurants on Airline Drive has neighboring residents concerned over the future of the development and their homes.

The Bossier City Council approved Tuesday, Aug. 7 the rezoning of 3117 Airline Dr. from B-2 (limited business) to B-3 (general business) to potentially suit four new restaurants.

The council also mandated that a concrete divider similar to the one at Provident Oakes be installed between the neighborhood and development, and that City Engineer Mark Hudson and Public Works Director Gary Neathery will perform an analysis about creating a cul-de-sac and closing any necessary streets.

The location is between Meadow Creek and Green Acres Boulevard, across Airline Drive from the Stirling shopping center.

Matthew Delaney of Momentum Commercial Development previously told the Bossier City-Parish Metropolitan Planning Commission Board that his office is talking to “half-a-dozen national restaurants” that would be new to the area and that two of them would likely need drive-thrus.

“This is a beautiful piece of property, it hasn’t been available for over 30 years and we want to develop it into something that everyone can be proud of and make the neighbors happy,” said co-developer Randy James.

But there are reservations among residents bordering the property that used to serve as the Bossier Racquet Club.

Angela Lair has been president of the Green Acres Place Home Owners Association since Dec 2017. She had attended meetings throughout the process and expressed concerns to the MPC on behalf of the neighborhood.

“A small percentage of neighbors stated on Facebook that they did not want the zoning to change. Most of the neighborhood is elderly people who are not connected to social media and such,” she said.

Lair complemented the council for their attention to this issue.

“I do believe that they are concerned about the neighborhood,” she said. “The only item on my list that they did not address was if there has been a study done to show that these types of developments negatively impact property values on homes.”

However, Lair was still disappointed the zoning change was approved.

“Now that it has passed, I do hope that (the developers) will take into account and be respectful of the neighbors that will be bordering that property and do everything that they can do to make sure that our property values are not affected,” said Lair.

At the Aug. 8 meeting she read a statement, saying, “Bossier City is a prospering city and the growth continues to trend north towards Benton and it’s inevitable our residential property will be surrounded by commercial property. But the City of Bossier has a choice in what properties will soon be surrounding our homes. People in this area currently associate Bossier City with strip malls and chain restaurants. Empty strip malls have become a blight on our city…as well as large big box stores sitting empty.”

She noted that the area is already congested by traffic without any further businesses and that “putting any business in that tract will have an impact on traffic and nearby neighborhoods.” She also expressed their concern over parking, noting that they are worried the tract is not large enough for four businesses, saying parking will bleed into the neighborhood.

She said more congestion will cause more through traffic down Greenacres Boulevard and asked that a traffic analysis be done to avoid further congestion.

She noted the Greenacres Place HOA is not anti-business and is excited about new restaurants but said that, “Surely this type of rezoning will negatively affect property values and quality of life for neighboring homes.”

Richard Hiller spoke to the council on behalf of Brian and Shawna Cramer.

“They are the individuals who probably have the most exposure to this development, they are right up against this development,” he explained. “They expressed to me in no certain terms how concerned they are. With a B-2 you can have a restaurant but with a B-3, you can have a fast food restaurant and that can be open at (11 p.m.). You could walk outside and still hear a fast food ‘sqwak box’ taking an order at 11 o’clock.”

Councilman Tommy Harvey, who voted against the rezoning, took input from neighbors and attended previous MPC meetings.

“Many of the concerns have been addressed but with restaurants you’re going to bring a lot of noise, you’re going to bring lighting that will detract from residents’ enjoyment in their backyards, you’re going to get odors from trash cans, you’ll get (pests),” said Harvey. “

MPC Director Sam Marsiglia noted the MPC’s Unified Development Code has protections for lighting from proximity to residences and all developers have to submit a lighting plan, as well as noise and operational hours requirements.

Delaney also told the council they had planned to build a solid, sound-absorbing wall that is removable to allow the city easement access.

“This fence, wall, whatever we want to call it, goes a long way to protecting them from everything involved with the commercial business in front of it,” said Marsiglia. “There are commercial businesses in front of subdivisions all over the MPC jurisdiction.”

Discussion at the meeting also turned to installing a cul de sac on South Hardwick Drive to prevent through traffic using that street as an ingress and egress for Airline Drive. City Engineer Mark Hudson advised gathering more information for construction of the cul de sac, including signatures of residents supporting the change.

“I’ve never contemplated constructing a cul de sac there,” said City Engineer Mark Hudson. “It’s an easy problem to get your hands on, but I’m just not familiar with it right now.”