Wed08272014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

   2014 39.95 HSD w VIDor PH-Banner2-500-x-125

Short-handed Planning Commission addresses zoning, public hearing

The Colonial Beach Planning Commission has seven seats. However, with recent commissioners exiting to move on to other endeavors, and commissioners Margaret McMullin and David Coombes choosing not to renew their terms after expiration, the commission is down to four sitting members.


A quorum is three-fourths of the sitting members, which is why the planning commission has been able to continue to conduct business. Commissioners are asking that anyone interested in joining, please visit Town Clerk Kathy Flanagan to obtain and fill out an application.

Current seated members include Chairwoman Maureen Holt, Commissioners Ed Grant, Kent Rodeheaver and Robin Schick, who was not in attendance at the October meeting.

The Colonial Beach Planning Commission held a record 13-and-a-half-minute meeting on Oct. 3. Accomplishing not only a public hearing and discussions on proposed changes to Article 9 - Commercial Residential Zoning District (which passed to the council with a unanimous vote in favor of the changes), the commission also reviewed what is being called the “Ten Thousand Dollar Document” — Design Guidelines Proposed Comprehensive Plan Amendments (DGPCPA).

DGCPA began with a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to conduct public meetings to discuss general standards for properties, for which citizens attending these meetings have expressed a desire.

The guidelines are voluntary. Existing property owners are more than welcome to abide by these guidelines, but will only be encouraged by the building and zoning office when a developer or property owner is seeking to rezone or obtain a conditional use permit (CUP). The developer can then proffer to design and build in concert with these guidelines.

Some of the guidelines include, but are not limited to preserving vegetation, drainage and views (where possible), preserving architectural details of existing buildings, replicating predominant architecture in new buildings, reducing or eliminating unsightly utilities, and relying on aesthetically pleasing signage that adds to the character of the buildings, rather than dominate the landscape.

The idea of these voluntary guidelines is to encourage new development to preserve what was discovered about Colonial Beach in a 2001 historical survey, conducted by Kathryn A. Miller of Historic and Architectural Resources.

“Few communities have such a complete representation of historic resort architecture,” Miller stated in her findings.

The guidelines were created in hopes of preserving the architectural heritage of the town, in hopes that building on these assets will reinforce the town’s identity and help to create a long-term vibrant community.

 

When guidelines become enforceable
Unless a developer voluntarily includes these guidelines in the site plan design, and the building and zoning office approves that site plan design, these guidelines are not enforceable.

According to a building and zoning staff report, “The design guidelines are just that — they are guidelines and represent what the town citizens want to see in terms of future development of the town.”

Staff also hopes “for current property and business owners these are voluntary, and hopefully provide a framework to guide them when they make improvements to their properties.”

Finally, the guidelines are divided into three categories: general standards that apply town-wide throughout Colonial Beach, standards that apply only to the historic resort commercial area, and standards set for property owners on The Point in Colonial Beach. The Point is the southernmost end of town, and includes all properties located south of Boundary Street.

The commission will hold a public hearing on the guidelines at the Nov. 7 planning commission meeting. After a commission vote, the guidelines will progress to the council level for discussions, a public hearing, and a vote from council to include the guidelines in the town’s comprehensive plan.

Article 9 Commercial Residential Zoning District
This ordinance concerns permitted and accessory uses allowed in the Commercial Residential District located along the north side of Washington Avenue, from its corner at Boundary Street to Colonial Avenue, along Colonial up to Garfield Avenue, along Garfield to First Street, and along First Street up to McKinney Boulevard (Route 205). It includes arts and crafts stores, bed and breakfasts, service businesses, libraries, schools, daycares, restaurants, small retail establishments and single-family dwellings, to name a few.
Accessory uses include things like sheds, ATMs, fences, antennae and other items that are required for utilities, storage and privacy.

The ordinance also lists what uses can be conducted after obtaining a CUP (conditional use permit). Some of these uses include adult daycare, assisted living facilities, commercial parking, convenience stores, night clubs, hotels and theaters, just to name a few.

One item that has been removed from the ordinance was any reference to bookstores, of any kind.
During the drafting process, the issue of adult bookstores came into consideration.

At previous meetings, one of the changes, previously discussed, concerned the allowance of adult bookstores. Commissioner Kent Rodeheaver was particularly concerned that if the allowance was left in the ordinance, it might attract such a business to be located in a residential area, which he believes is not consistent with what the town’s citizens would want.

At the Sept. 5 meeting, Mitchell said, “We took out the reference to bookstores, because it created a constitutional issue. You have to identify bookstores as being adult or not-adult.” Mitchell said that he would be more comfortable having the town attorney address that reference.

Mitchell said that originally, it stated that bookstores were allowed, “excluding adult bookstores.”

“I’m not sure, constitutionally, if you can exclude one type of bookstore and not another, without having some other type of ordinance to disallow it,” Mitchell said.

After some blushing discussions, the ordinance remained, with no reference to bookstores of any kind, either as a permitted/primary use or as a CUP.

The public hearing went swiftly since the only attendee was Mayor Mike Ham, who had no comments. The three attending members, Ed Grant, Chairwoman Maureen Holt and Kent Rodeheaver voted unanimously to send Article 9 on to the council for discussion, a public hearing and a vote.

Linda Farneth

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