BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (June 30) — During a meeting of the Dresden Municipal/Regional Planning Commission on Thursday, June 30, at Dresden City Hall, members voted to explore the possibility of hiring a single individual certified to serve as commercial and residential building inspector for the City of Dresden. Currently, commercial and residential property inspections are conducted by different people.
Mayor Jeff Washburn stated the city once had a single building inspector, but around 2014, the Dresden City Board decided to hire someone certified to inspect housing, while retaining a local building inspector for commercial properties.
The mayor said the City of Greenfield has a building inspector certified to inspect commercial and residential structures, and it might be possible to hire him to perform the same services for the City of Dresden.
Mayor Washburn asked Planning Commission members if they would consider recommending that the Dresden City Board agree to utilize a single individual to perform both type of inspections, and issue the permits through the city.
“Right now, we don’t even know when someone gets a state building permit, or if someone has started building a house.” He then asked the Planning Commission what they thought about the idea.
Dick Tidwell mentioned the problems the city had getting the former state building inspector, David Kelly of Memphis (now deceased), to inspect local construction job sites. As mentioned in previous meetings, because Kelly worked full-time in Shelby County, he could only inspect buildings on Saturdays, which caused delays and held up construction.
Tidwell noted buildings need to be inspected promptly, not a week after the request is made.
Mayor Washburn said, “When someone calls and says, ‘We’re pouring concrete tomorrow,’ we need someone sort of local to contact.”
After discussing the prospect of hiring a single building inspector for both business and residential construction projects, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the concept to the Dresden City Board.
Mayor Washburn agreed to contact Greenfield’s building inspector about also serving as Dresden’s building inspector.
General Sessions Judge Tommy Moore, who serves as chairman of the Dresden Planning Commission, stated that most of the houses on the north side of Nelson Street, and several houses on the south side of the street, were totally destroyed by the December 10, 2021, tornado and have since been removed, leaving vacant lots.
The Planning Commission considered a request by David Harper to rezone three adjacent properties he owns from B-2 (Central Business) to R-2 (Medium Density Residential). The addresses of the properties are 201, 207, and 213 Nelson St.
Harper told board members he proposes constructing a single-family dwelling at 201 Nelson St., and building a duplex across the two properties located at 207 and 213 Nelson St.
Single-family dwellings were previously located on all three properties, which were destroyed in the tornado.
The board informed Harper that single-family dwellings could be rebuilt on those properties (within one year of them being destroyed), since they are considered non-conforming uses. The reason these properties are located in a B-2 (Central Business) district, is because they were built prior to the area being rezoned.
Harper stated it would be difficult to rebuild single-family dwellings on the three lots within a year from the date they were destroyed by the tornado. However, Dresden’s staff planner, Donny Bunton, from the Northwest Tennessee Development District, said he thinks it might be possible that the Board of Zoning Appeals would be lenient and allow for the construction to move forward, providing the owner obtains building permits for the residential structures. Bunton stated Harper needs to contact City Recorder Jennifer Branscum regarding how to go about obtaining an extension on the one-year time limit from the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Regarding Harper’s request to combine the two properties located at 207 and 213 Nelson St., Bunton stated, the three properties do not connect to an existing R-2 district. So, the rezoning of such a small group of properties (the total area of the subject properties is approximately 1/3 of an acre) would likely constitute a spot zone. In order to avoid spot-zoning concerns, a larger area, which connects to another R-2 zone would need to be considered. The nearest R-2 district is located on the south side of Locust Street about half a block away.
Bunton explained, even if rezoned, it appears that the properties proposed for the duplex would not be large enough to meet the minimum lot size requirement for such a use. In order for a duplex to be constructed on the two properties, an area of 11,500 square feet is required. It appears that the area of the two properties is approximately 10,500 square feet, meaning a variance from the minimum lot size requirement would have to be sought from the Board of Zoning Appeals, if the rezoning request was approved.
Harper stated some neighboring property owners may also soon apply for their properties to be rezoned to R-2.
A local citizen, who owns a residence near Harper’s Nelson Street properties, questioned the practicality of Harper constructing a duplex on the two combined lots, due to parking issues. She stated, even when single-family homes were located on the three sites, before being destroyed by the tornado, vehicles had to park in the street. She noted, allowing duplexes to be built on the lots, would increase the number of vehicles and make parking even more difficult.
“That’s why in an R-2 zone, the requirement is for the property to be 11,500 square feet, so you could provide for parking,” Judge Moore said.
According to Bunton, the building code requires that two parking spaces be provided for a single-family dwelling and two more for a duplex.
Harper said, “The house had two driveways and there was a garage behind the house, so there is room for a driveway.”
Bunton told board members he recommends that they either turn down the request, because of spot-zoning concerns, or that a larger area be considered for rezoning, which would connect the three properties to another R-2 district.
Waivers, Permits and Site Plans
Bunton stated site plans are not required for R-2 (Medium Density Residential) or B-2 (Central Business); but are mandatory for B-3 (Highway Oriented Business) structures.
Tidwell asked if any of the properties destroyed by the tornado and are being rebuilt need a building permit, providing they are rebuilt on the same footprint.
“This board previously waived building permits for commercial buildings built back on the same footprint,” Mayor Jeff Washburn said.
However, Branscum stated the City of Dresden does not have the authority to grant a waiver for residential structures.
She explained that any residential structure, either a single-family dwelling or a duplex, built from the ground up or any standing structure that has added living space, must have a waiver in accordance with state law.
Branscum added, residential structures are regulated by the state, and property owners must apply for waivers. She mentioned waiver forms may be obtained online.
Once a building permit is obtained, the owner is required to contact the state building inspector to come on three separate occasions – to inspect the footing, a rough-in (plumbing) inspection, and a final inspection.
Alderman Kenneth Moore said, “If the concrete is poured without steel reinforcement, the state won’t pass it.”
Mike Youngblood noted the state now requires buildings to meet seismic requirements.
“We appreciate you building. We thank you for building, and for investing in the community. And we thank you for building something new that was blown down by the tornado,” Judge Moore said. “But, we have to do it the right way. As crazy as some of it sounds, the rules are there; and unless the rules are changed, we have to go by those rules.”
When it came to a vote, the board denied Harper’s request to rezone his three adjoining lots from B-2 (Central Business) to R-2 (Medium Density Residential).
Modular, Double-Wide and Single-Wide Homes
Tidwell asked, “Do modular homes include single-wide and double-wide if they have a permanent foundation?”
Bunton said, “By state definition, a modular home is something like a Jim Walter home; a manufactured home is a double-wide; and a mobile home is a single-wide.”
“On the north side of East Main Street, they’ve put a single-wide in, and all it has for a foundation is a tarp.” Tidwell said
“A single-wide is supposed to be located at a mobile home park in an R-3 district,” Bunton said.
Mayor Washburn stated the single-wide Tidwell was talking about is temporary and will be moved.
Tidwell inquired about where the city’s contractor was dumping construction debris from the storm.
Mayor Washburn stated the building destruction debris is being hauled to the Milan Landfill.
Branscum noted the construction debris was temporarily hauled to the Camden Landfill, when a fire at the Milan Landfill caused it to be closed for a few days.
It was announced the recommendation to hire a single individual to inspect both residential and commercial properties will be presented at the next regular Dresden City Board meeting on Monday, July 11, beginning at 6 p.m. Dresden City Board meetings are held in the McWherter Civic Center, located at 589 Evergreen St., in Dresden.