A request to rezone a portion of property surrounding Country Meadow Estates subdivision has failed to pass through the Alma Planning Commission.

Tri-County Properties Inc., the development company that owns the surrounding property and developed Country Meadow Estates, recently made a request to the City of Alma to rezone a section of the property from R1, which allows only single-family residences, to R2, allowing multiple-family homes such as duplexes or apartments.

Alma planning commissioners discussed the request and heard from the developers and area residents during their planning meeting Tuesday.

Harold Hamm, one of Tri-County’s four partners, addressed residents and the commission during the meeting and outlined the developer’s plans and where changes could be made.

Hamm told those at the meeting Tuesday that he and his partners inherited Tri-County, Country Meadow Estates and a large amount of debt to go with it.

“We didn’t start Tri-County and we didn’t start the subdivision ... but, we’re trying to find an amicable solution for all,” Hamm said.

While residents who responded to Hamm said they understood his predicament, they were not happy with the developer’s solution to fence off the subdivision and surround it with duplexes, claiming it would disrupt their neighborhood, bring more crime and was in violation of their covenants.

In the residents’ Bill of Assurances and Protective Covenants, it states “All lots in the subdivision shall be used for one separate single-family detached residence and for no other purpose.”

In original plans, the subdivision was supposed to spread into the area that Tri-County is now looking to rezone. But Hamm said that the plats for single-family homes have not been selling as well as expected.

To remedy the situation for both subdivision residents and Tri-County, the developers planned to put up a six-foot high fence to surround the existing homes and barricade all but the main street entrance.

If the rezoning passed, Tri-County then would build rental duplexes on the 20 acres of property to the west and south of the subdivision that have yet to be developed.

“The only thing I can say about what we’re trying to do now is encapsulate what’s there,” Hamm said.

One resident, 79-year-old Sylvia Haley, said she was disappointed by Hamm and Tri-County’s decision.

“I was so thrilled when I first drove in to Country Meadow. Just as I drove in, there was a big sign that said there would be no rentals,” Haley said. “It really hurts my feelings because this is like a lie.”

Haley added that she did not think Tri-County set out to trick residents, but still felt the group was going back on the promise of a rent-free neighborhood.

Resident Jerry Martin called the plan to fence-in the subdivision an “end run” around the covenant agreement. He pointed out that surrounding the subdivision with duplexes will bring down the value of the private homes.

“It was set forth in such a way as to make this a desirable place to live,” Martin said. “Any builder will tell you, when you put these duplexes right up against them like that, a safe estimate would be a 5 percent reduction in equity.”

All 17 residents who attended the planning meeting stood to let commissioners know they were against rezoning, and Alma’s planning commissioners sided with the residents.

“The people that were on the planning commission in 2007, for whatever reason, decided there would be no duplexes and these people bought their homes in good faith,” said commissioner Jerry Valentine.

Commissioner Carol Newton said it was the commission’s obligation to uphold the original agreement.

Four planning commissioners voted unanimously against, with commission chair Jim White abstaining.

Tri-County also requested a variance of street design on Shelly Lane from city to county standards, but withdrew that request after its zoning request failed to pass.

Also on Tuesday, commissioners passed on to the Alma City Council a revision of its firearm ordinance, which currently bans all shooting of firearms within city limits and sets a fine of up to $1,000 for each discharge on the first offense and up to $2,000 for each discharge on second and subsequent offenses.

According to commissioners, the new measure will be based on a firearm ordinance from the City of Goshen, which would allow restricted shooting of firearms and a much reduced fine for violations.