By MATT BLOIS
At a meeting on Monday night, the Brentwood City Commission approved a proposal to rezone the western half of the Primm farm.
The rezoning will permit more houses on the property, but the developer also agreed to restore a historic slave cabin. The previous zoning would have permitted 20 new homes. The new zoning allows 24.
The Planning Commission recommended disapproving the plan because of the increase in homes. Several City Commissioners had also expressed concerns about the number of new houses allowed on the property.
Commissioner Anne Dunn said she supported the project because she believes preserving the slave cabin is more important than limiting the number of homes on the Primm property.
“I want to be on the right side of history,” she said. “I’m looking 50 years, 100 years from now. What’s going to be the most important factor? Those four homes, of the preservation of this building that’s almost 200 years old, and represents something that is thankfully not part of our country anymore? We need to honor that memory.”
During the public comment period eight people, including representatives from the Historic Commission and neighbors of the property, spoke in favor of the project.
Brentwood resident Charles Massey told Commissioners that the new development won’t be that big, and he offered some advice his mother had given him, gleaned from Jesus’ tirade against religious officials in Matthew 23.
“Don’t strain at gnats and swallow camels,” he said. “I think that may be what we’re doing here.”
Commissioner Ken Travis was the only Commissioner to vote against the proposal. Mark Gorman voted against the proposal on first reading, but wasn’t at the meeting on Monday.
Travis said that he wanted to preserve the slave cabin, but wished there was another way to restore it.
The developer will restore the cabin, but the home owners association will be responsible for maintenance. Travis said in an ideal world the city would buy the cabin so the association wouldn’t have to pay maintenance costs.
However, his main concern was the example it would set for other developers. Approving the plan isn’t a legal precedent because rezonings are site specific, but Travis worried it would encourage other developers to ask for extra homes.
“I worry a lot about, not precedent, but expectations,” he said. “There’s a big difference between those two.”
According to Mayor Jill Burgin, other developers have asked for similar increases in the past. She said she asked the City Recorder to review all OSRD rezonings over the past five years.
The recorder found two rezonings from 2015 where the City Commission approved a proposal that increased the number of homes by 20 percent compared with the previous zoning. Although, a 10 percent increase was more typical.
Commissioner Anne Dunn said that developers often come to the City Commission with expectation, but she said she was prepared to vote no if a plan doesn’t offer enough to the city.
“I feel I can say no to an expectation,” she said.
The Commission voted 5-1 in favor of the proposal with one Commissioner absent.