The Retreat subdivision, one of Powell’s first subdivisions, has long been a gold standard in the community. But with the community’s deed restrictions expiring at the end of last year, residents of the neighborhood were spurred into action to ensure that standard continues to be met well into the future.
A large contingent of Retreat and Cardinal Hill subdivision residents was present at Tuesday’s meeting of Powell City Council to voice their opinions on an ordinance to approve the rezoning of The Retreat as a Planned District with a development text to serve as future guidance for the community.
The push for changes was started by the residents two years ago in preparation for the expiration of the deed restrictions and was first recommended for approval by the Powell Planning and Zoning Commission at its Dec. 11 meeting.
“Our board of trustees recognized two years ago our expiring deed restrictions needed to be replaced,” Retreat Association President Dan O’Brien told council Tuesday. “Why? For one reason: in order to preserve property values, we needed guidelines and restrictions regarding the use, modification, and maintenance of neighborhood property. Further, these restrictions needed to be enforced.”
O’Brien said in order for the expiring deed restrictions to continue to be enforced by the association, 100% buy-in from all residents would be required, which he called “extremely unlikely.” Because of that unlikelihood, O’Brien said the association approached the city’s development staff to pursue the best path moving forward, which led to the suggestion of the rezoning and creation of the development text.
With the assistance of a professional city planner hired by the Retreat Association, O’Brien said the association’s preparation for the initial development text included input from a group of “dedicated Retreat homeowners” and the association’s board of trustees, as well as an open house for all 162 homeowners in the subdivision.
The initial draft was approved “2 to 1” by residents, O’Brien said, but the draft was eventually tabled by the planning and zoning commission in order to get more feedback from the Retreat community. Following a second open house and many more discussions, O’Brien said the development text looked vastly different than the original, which was reflected in a “3 to 1” approval rating by residents and the approval from the planning and zoning commission.
“There are still those who do not want restrictions or limits placed on property modifications or enforcement on required minimum maintenance standards for their Retreat property,” O’Brien said. “A huge majority of Retreat homeowners think that position is unacceptable.”
He went on to say there have already been examples of negative impacts of homes on adjacent property values, and added, “Guidelines and restrictions are helpful, and they are necessary.”
Among the guidelines proposed in the development text is the creation of the Retreat Architectural Review Committee (ARC), which would consist of a board of volunteer Retreat homeowners. Any proposed modifications or improvements to property would have to be submitted to ARC for review, and a formal recommendation to be forwarded to the city ahead of its final decision on issuing a zoning certificate.
The development text refers to ARC as a “liaison between the homeowner and the City of Powell to facilitate the project, and O’Brien reiterated Tuesday that ARC’s recommendations would ultimately give way to the city’s final decision.
“We recognize the development text is not a perfect document,” O’Brien went on to say. “Some believe it is too lenient, some believe it is too restrictive. But we have a document for which a substantial number of Retreat homeowners have compromised their position and their personal feelings and now approve the language.”
This ordinance marks the first time there has been a request for a development text in lieu of expiring deed restrictions. Law Director Gene Hollins referred to the unprecedented case as “uncharted waters.”
Following comments from the many residents in attendance, Councilman Jon Bennehoof urged council and city staff to assess any potential legal ramifications that could stem from their decision.
The ordinance will go to a second reading, which will be held at the next council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 4. Councilman Tom Counts said he wants to take the time leading up to the next meeting to really think about whether the development text is the best way for The Retreat to move forward in preserving the high standards of its community.
Counts said that with The Retreat serving as a “test case,” the city needs to make sure it gets this right because many other neighborhoods in Powell facing expiring deed restrictions are likely to follow suit should the development text be approved.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.