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As CB town council pushes forward, businesses oppose C-1 zoning changes

At a special meeting yesterday morning, Gary Mitchell, Director of Building and Zoning, presented the latest revision of proposed text amendment changes to Article 8, Commercial Limited C-1 District zoning that many believe adversely impacts businesses in town.  There were approximately 25 business owners and citizens in the audience.
The zoning text amendment revisions began approximately three years ago in response to the proposed creation of a Maritime Commercial district on “The Point” south of Boundary Street that offered to provide appropriate locations for a variety of commercial activities related to water oriented issues.  It offers a mix of residential and commercial uses that includes marinas, restaurants, single family dwellings and hotels and motels among other permitted uses.  It includes front and rear yard setback regulations, height and screening regulations.

During the process of creating the Maritime District, changes to current C-1 zoning were discussed, revised and discussed again and are on the table for approval by Town Council at the upcoming June 10 meeting.  At the May council meeting, in response to a request by Carey Geddes representing the Chamber and recommended by Mayor Fred Rummage, council members and Mitchell reluctantly agreed to hold one last public hearing to fully ensure business and property owners understood the proposed C-1 zoning changes.
According to Mitchell, currently there are 24 permitted uses or “by right” uses for businesses zoned C-1. The draft proposal on the table removes 12 of these permitted “by right” uses.  Although the proposed text amendments do not have an impact on any currently operating business, the loss of 12 permitted “by right” uses adversely impacts new businesses looking to open in town.  Also of concern to current businesses is that when it’s time to sell their business, the loss of one-half of currently permitted uses severely limits the pool of prospective buyers.  
Removed as permitted “by right” uses are: auto service stations; convenience stores; financial institutions; flea markets; funeral homes; medical offices; pawn shops;  wayside stands; self storage warehouses; service establishments; vehicle sales, service and repair establishments; and veterinary hospitals and kennels.  Currently, the above listed types of business are allowed under C-1 zoning, which means that when a business owner markets and sells his property, he has a wider range of permitted “by right” uses to offer prospective purchasers without those purchasers having to incur costs to apply for a conditional use permit.  
Local realtor and business owner Bob Swink noted that the cost of obtaining a conditional use permit can range from $3,000 to $75,000, depending on requirements for site plans or engineering studies.
“We got to do something to welcome new businesses into our town,” Swink said. “With all these restrictions, I think that’s why people do not look here.”  
According to business owner Kyle Schick, the text amendment “is depreciating property.”
Planning Commission member Kent Rodeheaver, noted that according to the Comprehensive Plan, which governs changes to zoning districts, both Colonial Avenue and Washington Avenue are listed as “intensive” use areas, and that “while trying to fix The Point, you are now impacting every business in town.”  
Mayor Fred Rummage spoke of his opposition to the text amendments saying “this is downsizing, you’re taking rights from a property owner that impacts that owner.”   He further noted the town needs to create zoning laws that are “reasonable and acceptable to the majority of businesses in town.

 Kathy Flanagan

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