By James Beaty
McAlester resident Janell Brooks has tried and tried again, but so far she hasn’t been successful in convincing McAlester city officials to rezone a city neighborhood for a business she wants to place at the site.
At the center of the dispute is the request from Brooks and her husband, Gaylord Brooks, that the city of McAlester rezone a 7,500 square-foot piece of property at 804 E. Monroe Ave. from its current status as R-1B, which is single family residential, to H-1, which is a zoning for health facilities.
Janell Brooks once again made her plea in person to McAlester city councilors, addressing them during their Oct. 8 meeting in the council chambers at City Hall.
City councilors split 5-2 in their most recent vote on whether to grant the Brooks’ request to rezone the property, with a majority once again denying the request.
Janell Brooks seemed particularly displeased when she said she had been following the advice of Mayor Steve Harrison when she had applied for the H-1, or health facility designation, in the first place.
Prior to meeting again with the McAlester City Council both Janell and Gaylord Brooks had met for a second time with the McAlester Planning Commission on Sept. 17.
The Planning Commission had recommended that that the property not be rezoned, part due to city square footage requirements.
Also, the city had received a letter from a neighborhood resident on East Monroe Avenue, who said the Brooks had been good neighbors, but he still objected to plans to put a day spa/beauty shop on the property.
Before addressing the council during the Oct. 8 meeting, Janell had briefly spoken to councilors during the Sept. 24 meeting.
“We have some new information we would like to discuss,” Janell Brooks said. That led to the item being placed on the agenda for the Oct. 8 meeting.
During the Oct. 8 council meeting, both Mayor Harrison and Ward 1 Councilor Weldon Smith said they had been under the impression that the Brooks property on East Monroe Avenue had been adjacent to property belonging to the McAlester Regional Health Center.
Harrison attributed the misunderstanding as the reason for his suggestion that Brooks seek an H-1 designation in the first place.
Several councilors, as well as Harrison, said they were opposed to “spot” zoning, a reference to giving an address a special designation that does not apply evenly to everyone in the neighborhood. An example would be giving a special business zoning or an H-1 zoning to an address in a neighborhood that is otherwise zoned single-residential.
Those voting against rezoning the property to H-1 at the Oct. 8 meeting were Harrison, Smith, Ward 2 Councilor John Titsworth, Ward 3 Councilor Travis Read and Ward 4 Councilor Robert Karr.
Voting in favor of granting the Brooks’ request for a re-zone of the property were Ward 5 City Councilor Buddy Garvin and McAlester Vice Mayor/Ward 6 Councilor Sam Mason.
As for what’s next, Janell Brooks appears hopeful she may still be able to locate a new business at 804 East Monroe Ave., although she’s exhausted the appeals process with the city. The 804 E. Monroe address is close to her residence, she said.
In the meantime, she plans to continue operating her current business, Janell’s House of Beauty, at 214 S. Main St.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.