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John Thompson

Elizabethton Bureau Chief
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Planners overrule staff on in-home massage therapy business

October 5th, 2011 11:17 am by John Thompson

ELIZABETHTON — The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission unanimously went against a staff recommendation during its meeting on Tuesday. It was the first meeting of the commission since David Ornduff retired as director of planning last week with 28 years of service to the city.

The commission’s action came while it was sitting as the Board of Zoning Appeals to hear a request from Sarah Welch, who wanted to locate a massage therapy business in a residence at 312 W. E St. The location is in an R-2 medium density residential zone.

Welch spoke to the commission about her plans and said she did not anticipate there would be an increase in traffic in the area because she would be the only one working in the business and the appointments usually were an hour long. Welch said there had been a beauty salon at the location many years ago, but it was so long ago she could not find records on it. Welch said she understood there was another massage therapy business being operated out of another residence in the city.

Interim Planning Director Jon Hartman recommended postponing a decision until next month’s meeting, when Chief Building Official Robert Montgomery returns from vacation. He said the chief building official’s determination is that it is a business and as such is not permitted in the R-2 residential zone.

In a staff memorandum prepared by Ornduff before his retirement, he wrote “since this is not a permitted use in the R-2 residential district, the request should not be approved as the Board of Zoning Appeals does not have the legislative power to amend the zoning ordinance to permit the massage therapy business in the R-2 residential district.”

When questioned about how the current massage therapy was allowed to operate, Hartman said it was his understanding the other business did not have a business license.

Planner Dena Bass said she owned property next to the proposed massage therapy location. Bass said she was satisfied with Welch’s plans and was not in favor of making Welch wait four weeks for the chief building official. She said Welch could make many appointments in those four weeks and get her business started. She made the motion to approve the appeal and allow the business to operate. Bass’ motion was unanimously approved.

The planners also unanimously approved a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow gazebos in residential neighborhoods with some provisions. The building could not exceed 100 square feet, it must have a similar design to the existing structure, it must meet front and side yard setback requirements, it must meet sight distance requirements, meet flood zone requirements and the owners should submit a site plan for approval.

Bass asked if the site plan requirement was for a formal site plan or if it could be hand drawn. Hartman said it was just for the building officials to have an understanding of the builder’s plans.

The proposed amendment was unanimously approved. It will be considered by the City Council in November.

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