After almost a year of one of the nastiest zoning battles in recent memory, the Junius Heights controversy was laid to rest by the City Council on June 22.

There were intensive last-minute negotiation between Council representatives Chris Luna and Glenn Box, two of the key players supporting and opposing, respectively, the proposed planned development district. The planning staff and many neighborhood residents supported a planned development district proposal that would have restored conforming status to numerous non-conforming duplexes and multi-family properties in Junius Heights. Another faction in the neighborhood vehemently opposed it. To complicate matters, the opponents garnered more than 20 percent opposition in the notice area, requiring a three quarters vote of the Council for approval. What’s more, City Council representative Craig McDaniel could not vote because his house is within the notice area.

The Luna-Box compromise fell into place a short time before the Council vote, but was able to attract the “yes” votes of all members except Charlotte Mayes, with Council representatives Hicks and Crenshaw absent.

The compromise calls for all properties with six or fewer units to be made conforming. Those with more than six units will have to obtain a Specific Use Permit, but there will be a one-year fee waiver “window” to obtain one.

What is to be seen is whether the divisions in the neighborhood caused by this bitter and personal battle can be healed. The faction which opposed the planned development appears to be gearing up to form an organization to “monitor” the Planned Development and, perhaps, oppose future Specific Use Permit requests.

A LONG-BURNING FUSE ABOUT TO EXPLODE: A long-simmering controversy may be about to flare up again. A small group of commercial property owners and Munger Place residents have been meeting since spring to try to solve the zoning problems involving the properties at the intersection of Collett and Reiger, on the south edge of the Munger Place Historic District.

A couple of the non-conforming commercial properties in the area are embroiled in termination cases, with one being in litigation in federal court. The two sides have edged closer to some possible agreement on uses that could have less of a perceived impact on the nearby single-family houses.

So far, however, a compromise has bee elusive, with some in the neighborhood becoming increasingly vocal in support of leaving the zoning the way it is. In an effort to move the process forward, the hearing to determine proper zoning for the area will be scheduled at the Plan Commission for Sept. 8. If no compromise is reached in the meantime, some heated discussion is likely to result.

UNEXPECTED CONTROVERSY OVER LUBY’S: A more recent zoning change application is turning out to be more controversial than originally expected.

The First Community Church on the north side of Mockingbird between Abrams and Norris has applied for a zoning change from single-family residential to neighborhood-serving retail on the vacant lot owned by the Church at the northeast corner of Mockingbird and Norris. The church has a lease transaction in the works to Luby’s Cafeteria’s, Inc. for the construction of a cafeteria on the site. The Church and Luby’s have offered some concessions to try to mitigate the impact on the adjacent neighborhood, including screening, limiting truck traffic to the Mockingbird entrance, and orienting the rear of the building away from the neighborhood.

However, many in the area oppose any change in the zoning, while others appear to more or less support the request. The case was scheduled for Plan Commission action on July 21, but when we went to press it seemed like there would be a three-week delay for negotiations.

LIQUOR STORE WILL PROBABLY PASS: On July 28, the Plan Commission was to hear a Specific Use Permit application for a retail liquor store at 1802 Greenville Ave., at the corner of Lewis Street. Initially nearby neighborhood groups seemed to support the request, largely because a liquor store, with its mandatory 9 p.m. closing time, was seen as less disruptive, noisy and traffic-creating than another bar or restaurant.

However, opposition has begun to surface from individuals in the nearby notice area. Despite this, passage still seemed likely.

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