Tue09162014

Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

   20140901MetroCastweb

CB Planners take a look at the operation of the zoning department

   On March 31, 2009, the Colonial Beach Planning Commission held its April meeting at the Town Center.   They began promptly with all Planning Commissioners present with the exception of Desiree Urquhart.  
   The first item of business was not contained on the agenda, but was the direct result of an action taken by the Town Council during their March work session held on March 26th, the passing of a resolution calling for the “Reorganization of the Building and Zoning Department”.     The item of business the Chair of the Planning Commission was attending to was introducing Val Foulds, the Town Manager, as the Interim Building and Zoning Administrator to replace former Building and Zoning Administrator Chuck Bird, who recently resigned.
   The Resolution that Council passed, Agenda Item #24-09,  contains language concerning the absence of the Building and Zoning Administrator and the Town's need to hire someone for that position, but it also touches upon the need to “ensure that an effective system of operation, as well as appropriate checks and balances, is implemented in the areas of building and zoning”.  
   It goes on to charge the Town Manager with the responsibility of identifying “the primary functions of the Building and Zoning Department and to develop one or more proposals or options for the reorganization of the Colonial Beach Building and Zoning Department”.
    As a part of the proposals that were the submitted is “a mechanism for checks and balances be included so as to best ensure the fair and consistent application of the Town's ordinances to all citizens”.  
   The Chairman went on to point out that the Town Council had “suspended the rules” to approve this resolution.  The rule that was suspended was the one about voting at work sessions. Generally, it just isn't done.  So how important is it to undertake this review of the department?  This is a fair question when the next item on the agenda, which involved Maritime Commercial, stems from a Planning Commission action a year old that sat forgotten and un-adressed by Council.
   The Chair continued, “Basically what we're saying is that we need to take a look at the operations in that department and come to some decision as to what if anything needs to be changed, looked at etc...”
    Coombes told the Planning Commission that the Town Manager would have the support of the Town Attorney and the County's building inspectors.  “Unless we have some kind of serious situation that needs to be addressed, we will probably not be in full gear.  We will do the things we have to do but don't expect long lengthy meetings”.
    Planning Commission member Kent Rodeheaver asked, “Is there anything that tells us there could be a problem?”
    Chairman Coombes answered, “We want to look at the whole thing thoroughly in terms of how it has been operating.  That's not to imply that there is anything wrong.  There may be.  But we want to find out.  Val will head that operation.  We do not want to go ahead and hire somebody until we know that that person is coming into a slick moving operation without any baggage.  Let's put it that way.”  
   After a few more comments from members,  the Chairman brought the subject to conclusion saying, in reference to the “depth of experience and depth of education” of the individual that will be hired to fill that spot, “Particularly with the Chesapeake Bay Act putting on a lot of requirements.  There are a lot of people that can get unhappy.  We just need to examine how we're doing business as it relates to the public.  We need to make sure that the public has confidence in the decisions coming out that office.”  
   Rodeheaver added, “We need somebody who treats everybody the same.”  
   “I know that”, answered the Chair.  

Anne Congdon

Foulds acts as Interim Zoning Admin., Rezoning south of Boundary moves along

   What was anticipated to be a long second half of last week's Town Council Meeting turned out to be swift and productive.
   Several resolutions were passed without discussion or opposition.
   Zoning Administrator Chuck Bird’s resignation became effective as of yesterday March 17. In response to this vacancy Resolution 22-09 was passed on March 12 which authorizes Town Manager Val Foulds to act as Interim Zoning Administrator and utilizes the Westmoreland County Building Inspector, Paul Brunkow as a temporary designated official responsible for all acts pursuant to the Uniform Building Code.
   According to Lori Mills of the Zoning office in Colonial Beach, all matters will still be handled in the Colonial Beach office and the residents will not see any disruption in service.    
One more step in the re-zoning issue of properties south of Boundary Street in Colonial Beach which has been haunting Councilman Coombes who also sits on the planning Commission has been taken.
   According to records on December 14, 2006 the issue of rezoning properties South of Boundary from C-1 to Maritime Commercial resulted in Ordinance 535 to allow for such rezoning.
For some reason unknown to key officials, ordinance 535 was passed but never acted on. In order to act on it now it must be referred by Town Council to the Planning Commission in order for it to be implemented. Res. 20-09 was passed on March 12 to do just that.
   The purpose for the rezoning to Maritime Commercial is to afford land owners who don’t have residential structures already on their C-1 zoned properties to be able to build homes on their property while still allowing them to continue to utilize them as Commercial properties with limited use. The rezoning would still leave some restrictions but some would be handled with conditional use permits. With the Maritime Commercial zoning, businesses such as Gas Stations or Convenience Stores would not be allowed. “The goal is to preserve the neighborhoods,” said Mills.
   Mills said that all property owners who face rezoning will be notified of public hearings as required by law. This means that neighbors whose lots would not be rezoned and are interested in keeping up with the progress of the rezoning need to stay informed through advertisements since the town is not legally obligated to notify them in writing.
   The passing of Res. 20-09 is not the final step. It will now go before the Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing on the issue, then make a recommendation to the Council. The Council will then hold another public hearing on the matter before voting on the issue. Copies of the resolution 20-09 and Ordinance 535 can be obtained at town hall. Interested parties should attend all meetings and public hearings if they want their voice to be heard. As of press time no public hearings had been scheduled on the matter.
   The fourth Quarter Appropriations for this fiscal year sailed through the voting with no discussion or opposition. The town will appropriate $3,329,497.00 collectively for the General Fund, Utilities Fund and the Utility Fund Capital Projects WWTP.
   The town appropriated $1,548.909.00 to the Schools Operating Fund with zero dollars going towards School Construction Fund or Debt Service. When asked if this zero balance would hinder the instillation of the three new heat pumps recently approved by the School Board,  Barbara Worrell said that the money needed for 3 new heat pumps is being drawn from the 3rd quarter appropriations. As for replacing the remaining heat pump no clear answer has been given to The Journal Press as to where it will come from.
   The issue that was anticipated to be most time consuming was the public hearing on the matter of renewing the Town's lease with Tom and Emily Garner who last year rented the building on 108 Taylor Street referred to as the “White Building” for 12 months at a rate of $1.00 for the whole year. In exchange for such low rent the Garners renovated the building. The new lease requires a sum of $3,600 dollars for the first year's lease due by April 1, 2009 and the second year’s lease will increase by 10% with a payment of $3,900 dollars due April 1, 2010.
The “White Building” which is actually a teal color, housed the Garners’ business “Lollygaggin’ Outdoors” which they ran as a kayak rental.
   The only discussion on the issue was brought about by Councilwoman Karen Payne who suggested a cancellation clause allowing the Council to cancel the lease with 90 days notice. The council agreed to new lease adding the cancellation clause.     
According to Foulds the Garners were present at the meeting and she felt confident that an agreement could be reached.
   Bob Swink has been reappointed to the Colonial Beach Erosion Commission for an additional five years. (Res. 18-09)
   The Council passed Res.19-09 which authorizes the Town Manager to advertise for bids to renovate the Tourism Building on the boardwalk.

Linda Farneth

 

Planning Commission requested to look at re-zoning

   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.

Anne Congdon

 

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