The Cherokee County Planning Commission had only a single case before it at its most recent meeting, making a recommendation for approval on a commercial rezoning request and concurrent variance.

The case came from Robert Kriz, who was asking to rezone half an acre at 2021 East Cherokee Drive from neighborhood commercial to general commercial for the purpose of placing a drive-up emissions testing center at the site. The concurrent variance attached to the request would allow for an encroachment into the zoning buffer between different types of zoning classifications. County Zoning Manager pointed out that the property is adjacent to both Bethel Baptist Church and Johnston Elementary School, while the site has served as a barber shop and hair salon in the past.

“For six years, I owned and operated a drive-up emissions station at the old Chevron station at the end of Sixes Road and Highway 5,” Kriz said. “Ninety percent of my business comes from Toonigh and East Cherokee, and I’ve been serving them for six years, so I tried to find a new location. Economically, it’s difficult to find a good spot, but I found this spot on East Cherokee Drive.”

Kriz went on to explain that he signed a five-year lease on the property with an option to purchase it outright. When he went to apply for a business license, he was informed that the land would need to be rezoned to general commercial, which is what led him to submit his request to the planning commission. He also argued he felt his use would be less impactful than other potential uses that could be interested in the property and said he would leave approximately half of the site untouched by his facility, while also working to maintain the overall character area.

“I think East Cherokee is a beautiful corridor, with horse farms and a lot of beautiful houses. My plan is to renovate this building to look like a little barn or a little farmhouse,” Kriz said.

He concluded his statements by saying there is not another drive-up emissions testing shop within approximately five miles of the property in question and that he had talked to the head pastor at Bethel Baptist Church, who expressed his support for the plan as laid out.

Nobody signed up to speak during the public comment portion of the hearing, and with the commission members having no questions for Kriz, Commission Member Tom Ware put forth a motion to approve the rezoning and concurrent variance, which was seconded by Commission Member Lee Lusk.

“I think this is an okay location for this type of business. I don’t think it will be a nuisance at all to the neighborhood,” Ware said.

Commission Chair Bob Whitaker added, “The only thing I’d say is, in commercial zoning, it throws it wide open to all kinds of things. This particular applicant is not intending to construct anything additional on the site, but to adapt the building to his purposes. Maybe it would be a wise idea to make the variances conditional upon this use.”

Whitaker proposed adding the condition that not only would the variance requested in Kriz’s application conditional upon this specific use, but that it would run concurrent with the occupational tax certificate for this business and would not be transferrable. Neither Ware nor Lusk had any objection to amending the motion to include these conditions, and the modified motion passed in a unanimous vote.

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