The former site of Red River Valley REA will not be changing from commercial to industrial zoning after a tie vote during a Monday night meeting. REA had a potential buyer for the building on the condition the property was rezoned.

The meeting began with those who were against the change detailing their objections. One of their primary objections was that they did not know specifically what businesses would be opening at the location. They did not want the potential noise and smells to interfere with their businesses. 

Steve Reed, a neighboring business owner who objected to the change, pointed out that if the council approved one rezoning they would likely get other requests to change from commercial to industrial.

“My feeling is that’s the best thing you’ve got as far as an entrance to Marietta and I feel like if you change that into industrial, (there’s) no telling what’s going to go in out there,” Reed said. “I know of two other property owners that if it goes that way, they’re going to want to go industrial, too. What’s that going to look like in a few years?”

Charles Roberts, an attorney representing First National Bank and Big 5 Community Services, expanded on Reed’s objection. 

“We don’t want the entrance to Marietta to change from being a receptive commercial entrance,” Roberts said. “We don’t want people to say ‘just past the junk yard take a right into my drive way.’ We want it to stay like it is — a beautiful entrance — welcoming with food, banks, convenience stores, commercial — just like the planners initially planned.”

David Hicks, a board member for REA, spoke in favor of the change.

“Rumors are spreading that our previous headquarters will be turned into a marijuana facility because of the change from commercial to industrial,” Hicks said. “On the positive side, what if the buyer does what he says, recognizing the value of the property, turning this facility into several businesses? It would bring a lot of customers to First National Bank who is protesting this change. It would bring a lot of tax dollars into the city and our county. It would bring more customers to my cousin Steve Reed who is protesting.”

David Blankenship, an attorney representing REA, pointed out to the council that the rezoning request had already been recommended by both the city planning commission and the employees of the city.

“So everyone who has looked at this up to the City Council has unanimously said to approve this or has recommended to approve it,” Blankenship added. He then addressed the concerns that the city would lose control over what businesses went into the city. 

“No one builds anything out there without a building permit,” Blankenship said. “The plans for building permits have to be submitted and approved by the city.”

After the public hearing closed the council members were allowed to ask questions. One member asked if REA had received any other offers. Incoming CEO, Brent Sykora, said they only had two official offers. All other interest in the building had come from those wanting the property for industrial use.

“One of the protesters submitted an offer that was $200,000 below fair market value. We got this offer that is nearly 100,000 above fair market value, and we are required with our loan covenant with the government to get fair market value,” Sykora said. “That’s what you’ve got on the table before you.”

Before the vote, the city attorney explained five council members had to vote in favor of the ordinance and that the mayor would not be able to vote in the event of a tie. So with a tied vote of four to four, the ordinance failed.