- Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:12
- Published on Wednesday, 11 February 2009 21:12
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The Planning Commission began its monthly meeting last week on Thursday evening, February 5 at 5:30 p.m. After running briskly through the opening agenda including a quick review of the changes made to Article 18, Miscellaneous and a read through of Article 26, Home Occupation, the Commission turned its attention to new business. The new business at hand involved the former site of Parker's Restaurant now known to Colonial Beach newcomers as Still Waters Grille or the Yacht Club Restaurant.
Chairman David Coombes explained to fellow commission members that the owner of the property, developer Kevin McKinney, had sent an email to the town indicating that he wanted to build houses on the property. According to Coombes, the email went on to say that if the land wasn't re-zoned so that he could do that, he might build self storage units.
Is that possible? Along Monroe Bay Avenue there are pockets of land, seven individual blocks that are zoned C-1 Commercial. The block that contained Parker's is such a piece. If land is zoned Commercial C-1, any of the businesses listed as an allowable use can be put there, like storage units. At one point in time, over a year ago, McKinney tried to get permission to build a hotel of sorts on the site and after public hearings, where numerous local residents voiced their concerns, was denied. McKinney then threatened to build a three story building on the site simply because he could.
In response to McKinney's email, the Town Council made a request of the Planning Commission to look at the possibility of re-zoning that block to R-2, Residential, which is the request that the Chair David Coombes, relayed to his fellow commission members. Director of Zoning Chuck Bird pointed out that to re-zone that land to R-2, Residential, would be in conflict with the new Draft Land Use maps as well as the Comprehensive Plan the commission was currently working on.
Maritime Commercial, explained Bird, would be a far better option. "You would need an amendment to the Comp Plan", continued Bird, "in order for it to become R-2. However, a Maritime Commercial re-zoning would probably be supported by the Plan". Coombes reminded the Commission that "2 years ago when we did Maritime Commercial we did put in single family dwellings".
Coombes continued on explaining to the Planning Commission that in light of the "drawn out process" it takes to get to the point of "getting houses on there" it would be better, more expedient to re-zone just this one block along Monroe Bay. This is when things got confusing.
Commission Member Margaret McMullen weighed in commenting that the Planning Commission had given Maritime Commercial to the Town Council 1 1/2 years ago and "never heard from them". Coombes tried to explain that what they had sent to Council was a request for approval to create the Maritime Commercial Zoning District, to make it exist on paper. That part was done.
What had not happened was the Town Council had not forwarded any requests to the Planning Commission to use the newly created district as part of any re-zoning. Coombes continued on saying that what they really needed the Town Council to do was withdraw their request to look at re-zoning the land R-2 and request the Planning Commission to re-zone it Maritime Commercial.
Coombes added that just this block should be done to avoid any additional public protest. By doing it piecemeal, Coombes felt that the re-zoning could actually occur and protect the land, and the residents of that local area, from the threat of storage units. Commission Member Margaret McMullen voiced her opinion that they, the Planning Commission had held enough public hearings and that all the blocks should be done at once. Coombes tried in vain to explain that the public hearings that had been held had not been for an actual re-zoning, but again to create the zoning district, to make it exist on paper. The Chair elaborated that for the re-zoning itself, public hearings would have to be held. "We don't want to incur that kind of fury", he explained. The Chair simply wanted to just get it done as McKinney's email had also implied a "time is of the essence" factor, in other words before he lost his funding.
"Let us bring the fury forward", declared McMullen. At this point several other members of the Planning Commission jumped on board with McMullen agreeing that all the lots should be re-zoned. The final motion? To request the Town Council task the Planning Commission with looking at the re-zoning of all the blocks to Maritime Commercial, not just the one.
After the meeting was adjourned, a brief question and answer with Commission Members solidified that Chairman Coombes had not been understood when he tried to explain the value of re-zoning just the one piece, nor had the issue of additional public hearings being required for the actual re-zoning been completely understood.