Monterey Rezoning Request

The Highland County Planning Commission held a joint public hearing with the Monterey Town Council on Thursday evening to make a recommendation regarding the rezoning of a property at 184 East Main Street from residential to business. The property is currently under contract for sale and the prospective owner, Michelle Shell, wishes to move her therapeutic massage business to the property now under consideration for rezoning. It was stated at a previous county supervisors’ meeting that Ms. Shell’s massage business would not require use of the full structure and that she and her husband intended to use the balance of the building to offer short-term vacation rentals.

The public hearing was moderately well-attended by local standards. During the public comment period, four town of Monterrey residents expressed concern over the potential rezoning.  One resident questioned why the intended use of the property could not be handled with a conditional use permit instead of a zoning change. Attorney to the Planning Commission, Melissa Dowd, explained that the intended use of the property was prohibited under any circumstances in a residential zone.  Rezoning was the only possible way to permit Ms. Shell to operate her massage business.  Two other residents voiced several specific concerns:

I’m Nada Fenn and my primary concern, we need to be more concerned with getting businesses uptown rather than running east. We need to get businesses that are going to draw people. We need to get businesses that are going to provide more jobs for people. We need to be more concerned with our downtown.  I’m also bothered with the fact that we’re going to become an island.  The house was on the market for over a year.  No one even looked at it.  So, that concerns me as well. And I’m also concerned about the traffic.  There is a traffic issue there between Wilson Street and the dollar store. And here, there will be more of a traffic issue.

 Observers had expected this process to be cut and dried, wherein the Planning Commission would vote to send a recommendation to the Town Council favorable to the rezoning request.  Town Council would then vote to approve the request, clearing the way for the property sale to proceed. However, interested parties to the transaction could sense that the path to victory was about to get rocky when Town Council member Richard Robinson, who lives across the street and two houses down from the subject property, voiced his concern.

I’m a councilman, Richard Robinson, 139 East Main Street.  My main concern is if, I guess I’m a pessimist, if this doesn’t succeed, now, it’s some business and there’s so many uses that can go in there. It could be worse. And I guess that’s being a pessimist but once you zone a business, it’s zoned business.

Melissa Dowd read a letter from Richard Hotz, who is the neighbor adjacent to the subject property.  Mr. Hotz stated that he and his wife had no objection to the rezoning request.

Planning Commission member Randy Richardson then made a motion to send a favorable recommendation to the Monterey Town Council. The motion received a reluctant second some 58 seconds later.  Having now passed the issue to the Monterey Town Council, Council member Robinson made a motion, which was promptly seconded, to table the matter until the Town Council’s next scheduled meeting on August 1.  That motion passed by a vote of 3 to 1.

In other business, the Planning Commission reviewed a number of conditional use permits to ensure compliance, and it approved all of them. The Commission then discussed the drafting of a county-wide solar ordinance to ensure no adverse impact from industrial solar farms. Concern was expressed that neighboring counties are in the process of permitting solar farms, and that it is only a matter of time until Highland County faces the issue. A motion was made and passed directing that a solar ordinance be drafted and discussed at a future meeting.

This is Mickey Frank Thomas for Allegheny Mountain Radio.

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Mickey Frank Thomas

Mickey Frank began his radio career in October 2017 when he was offered the impossible-to-fill 9:00 p.m. to midnight slot on Saturdays, where his coordinated mix of pop, soft rock and R&B from the 60s through the 80s met with little acclaim. Deciding that he needed a more awake audience, he added the 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. afternoon drive slot to his workload when it became available in December 2018. Originally from Morton, Illinois, good, old Mickey Frank has lived in more places than he can count on his fingers and toes, but now resides in Highland County.  Email Mickey Frank at

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