Cromer said construction of the new high school, less than a mile south of the proposed development site, constituted as a significant change, and was not anticipated by the developers of the 2004 Comprehensive Plan.
Furthermore, Cromer said, the size and location of the property make it make it inappropriate for agricultural use. The tract is between two major highways and the area is heavily trafficked.
The heavy traffic also makes the location undesirable for residential use and, according to a study conducted for the new Comprehensive Plan, still in the drafting phase, there are enough undeveloped residential lots to handle growth for the next 10-20 years.
Swift requested that the area be designated B-3, Highway Business, which Cromer said is appropriate for the area. All municipal services are available at the site and Cromer said that the new high school would likely generate more traffic in the area.
The narrow tract of land was created when the new Highway 627 (Boonesboro Road) was constructed.
According to Swift, the narrowness of the tract makes it impossible to meet setback guidelines for most of the residential zones, including R-1A and R-6. Additionally, approximately two acres of the four acre tract are in the flood plain, further complicating most types of construction.
Several citizens testified that the area is prone to flooding and worried that adding pavement would increase the problem. Concerns also were raised about the proximity to Lower Howard’s Creek, and possible pollution, though civil engineer Robert Baldwin and the applicant both felt that there was enough distance between the sites to alleviate worry. Additionally, Baldwin said state regulations require developers to keep water run-off at the same level it was before construction.
Retired architect Chuck Witt testified that the requirements for a zone change were not met, stating that some residential development was possible. Witt questioned Cromer’s assertion that there is enough property already zoned residential and pointed out that the Comprehensive Plan does not define what radius constitutes the area around the property. Witt said the argument could be made that the high school was not close enough to the proposed construction site to have an impact.
Witt also said that going from agricultural use to highway business was too abrupt a change, and that transitional development would be better, which would mean a zoning classification like professional office is more appropriate.
The applicant was represented by John Rompf, who responded to Witt’s argument with his own examples from the Comprehensive Plan, which suggests first developing areas that already have municipal services available. Rompf said the convenience store would make use of a piece of property that might not otherwise be developed.
The commission voted to deny the request because of uncertainties about what zoning classification is appropriate for the area.
“I think that it was a good meeting, and that it showed the process the way it’s supposed to work. The applicant gets to make a request and state why they think it’s appropriate. The neighbors are notified and given an opportunity to speak, and then the planning commission weighs all of that.”
The planning commission will meet again in regular session Tuesday, March 1. There will be no public hearings so commissioners can focus on discussion of potential new design guidelines. The public is encouraged to attend.
For more information, contact Rachel Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org.