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Building and zoning staff recommends cap on outdoor display/storage

The  Colonial Beach Planning Commission sent a favorable recommendation to the council to increase the amount of outdoor display/storage that businesses could utilize, but following building and zoning staff's recommendation, the commission agrees a cap should be placed on businesses. 

The cap was recommended because building and zoning staff warns that if, in the future, a super store moves in, the outdoor display/storage could have a major impact on the appearance of the business and likewise on the town. 

The current zoning ordinance, Article 8,  limits outdoor storage to 5% of the total gross floor area of the business structure. The amendment would allow up to 30% of the total gross floor space but Gary Mitchell, Director of Building and Zoning, recommends putting a cap on outdoor display. 

Mitchell sites in his report some examples; a large format store with a gross square footage of 15,000 square feet, such as a typical drug store, could result in 4,500 square foot of outdoor display and storage, a 50,000 square foot store, such as a typical grocery store, could net 15,000 square foot and a 100,000 square foot, such as Big Lots, could net 30,000 square feet, over a half and acre. 

The issue first came up at the March Economic Development Committee meeting when George Milleson owner of 614 Colonial Ave. told Committee Chairman Tim Curtin that a businessman was interested in renting the vacant side of his building to sell golf carts but was discouraged by negative comments from staff at the building and zoning office.

Custom Cartz L.L.C. was interested in renting the larger half of the building but his venture was stopped short by Article 8 of the town code that restricts the amount of merchandise allowed to be displayed in the parking lot or outside of a business establishment. 

Ordinance 623 was created quickly to address concerns raised by Milleson. The ordinance would allow more outdoor storage of merchandise with a conditional use permit. 

Custom Carts originally filed an application for conditional use permit, which would be heard after Ordinance 623 was discussed and adopted, but 24 hours before a special joint meeting of the Colonial Beach Council and Planning Commission, Custom Carts withdrew their application, to avoid added expenses and conditions created by the conditional use permit process according to town officials. 

By law the town must cease all action once the application is withdrawn, but the two groups continued to address the original ordinance, which is considered a separate issue. 

After hearing concerns from business owners, committee members discussed the issue and decided to forgo Ordinance 623 and instead raise the limit on outdoor display/storage to 30%.

Mitchell also cautioned that the proposed amendment leaves out the the requirement of a site plan in Article 8-2 where conditional use permits are needed. 

The staff report explains that not requiring a site plan may pose a problem in regards to certain aspects of administration of the ordinance. In issuing new business zoning permits the staff is required to determine the number of parking spaces, amount of impermeable surface area and landscaping which can only be accomplished through a site plan. 

Mitchell recommends putting in the requirement for site plans on new construction but altering Article 14 which defines when a site plan is required. The alteration would include an exception to the site plan requirement for businesses that re-use an existing commercial structure provided that the impermeable surface ares is not increased.  

There will be a public hearing and action on this amendment in the form of ordinance #624 at the Council meeting on Thursday, June 14 at 7 p.m. 

 

Linda Farneth

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