Planning Commission – April 20, 2016

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PLANNING COMMISSION

APRIL 20, 2016

Mr. Jeff Grotsky, Chairman, called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Commission members David Bowering, Darrell Craig, Morgan Ellis, Jane Richman and Paul Showalter, Kees de Mooy, Zoning Administrator, Jennifer Mulligan, Town Clerk, and guests.

MINUTES OF PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING

Mr. Grotsky asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the meeting of February 17, 2016. Mr. Showalter moved to approve the minutes as presented, was seconded by Mr. Bowering and carried unanimously.

KRM – WAREHOUSE BUILDING – 225 TALBOT BLVD. – PRELIMINARY AND FINAL SITE PLAN

Mr. Kevin Shearon of DMS & Associates and Mr. Tim Buckless of KRM were present on behalf of the application.

Mr. Shearon stated that this request was for a 28,000 square foot addition to the existing 49,000 square foot warehouse building located at 225 Talbot Boulevard. Mr. Shearon stated that the overall site was 6 acres, zoned LI-1 (Light Industrial) and was originally developed with the addition in mind.  There was an aerial photo showing access points and existing parking.  The building materials on the addition would replicate the existing building.

Mr. Shearon stated that 4’ tall loading docks would be in the rear of the building and there was an existing ramp that would be extended. Utilities were already in place and would be extended into the new portion of the building.  There was a combined stormwater management pond and Soil Conservation Service requested that he provide calculation to show that there was room in the existing pond to meet current stormwater management regulations, and Soil Conservation Service is about to sign off on the project.

Mr. Shearon stated that there will be wall-mounted dark-sky compatible lighting on the addition and in the rear for the loading docks.

Mr. Shearon showed drawings of all elevations for the addition. He said that there was not much room for landscaping, although there will be foundation landscaping extended from the existing landscaping at the front of the complex.

Mr. Shearon stated that there was no additional parking needed, noting that there were ninety-four (94) spaces on the campus, which was more than enough. He said that he thought there was a 4-to-1 ratio for parking at this time.

Mr. Craig moved to approve preliminary and final site plan for and the proposed addition at 225 Talbot Boulevard as shown, contingent upon review and approval of landscaping and lighting plans by the Zoning Administrator, was seconded by Mr. Showalter and carried unanimously.

FISH WHISTLE DECK EXPANSION – 98 CANNON STREET – PRELIMINARY SITE PLAN

Mr. Max Ruehrmund of M3 Architecture was present on behalf of the owners of the Fish Whistle restaurant, Matt Weir and Tony Weir. He said that the owners are seeking to expand the deck area of the restaurant to the south and northeast sides of the building.

Mr. Ruehrmund stated that as part of the Marina renovation there would be a new retaining wall built around the restaurant in order to maintain an elevation of the existing grade of the overall site, including the parking area.

Mr. Ruehrmund stated that the deck would have a roof over most of it for covered outdoor dining. There will be a bar area created on what is being called the “crab deck” and that portion will be covered.

Mr. Ruehrmund stated that the restaurant shares parking with the Town of Chestertown and they were working towards modifying the existing parking easement. The Mayor and Council have granted approval for the southward deck extension over Town land.

Mr. de Mooy stated that there would be extra parking on the site with the demolition of the large shed on the Marina property and the Wilmer Park parking lot was in close proximity.

Mr. Ruehrmund stated that added capacity for the restaurant was one hundred thirty-one (131) seats. Mr. Bowering asked the total seating for the existing restaurant.  Mr. Ruehrmund stated that he did not have that number.  Mr. Ruehrmund stated that he thought it would increase the overall restaurant by a little more than 25%.

Mr. Grotsky asked for more detail on the parking agreement. Mr. Ruehrmund stated that he did not have information on that at this meeting because the easement was being worked out.  Mr. de Mooy stated that parking was already resolved in an existing easement that dealt with parking in front of the Fish Whistle and there were provisions in the zoning where if parking cannot be met on site, they can go within a 300’ radius.

Mr. de Mooy stated that the easement being worked on is for the deck extensions and other details including parking and responsibilities related to construction. He said that the Town was going to raise the elevation of the entire site, install new piers, decks and repave the Town’s property.  He said that the construction that would take place on Town property had to be coordinated with the construction that would take place at the Fish Whistle.

Mr. Bowering stated that he thought it was important that the parking for the restaurant did not overwhelm the other uses for parking downtown. Mr. de Mooy stated that a parking analysis could be done for the site.

Ms. Ellis asked if there was an expected timeframe for the renovation. Mr. de Mooy stated that the exact timing was uncertain because of all the coordination efforts that had to take place.  Ms. Ellis asked if funding was tied together.  Mr. de Mooy stated that the Fish Whistle owners were paying for their own renovations and their costs were not tied to any grant or other funding.  Mr. de Mooy said the Town has all of the required permits required.

Mr. de Mooy stated that the Mayor and Council have approved the concept for the Fish Whistle renovation. He said that the easements would be reviewed by the Town’s attorney.  Mr. Craig stated that he thought the parking needs would double with this plan.  Ms. Richman stated that the parking issues would be seasonal.

Ms. Richman stated that being able to stay in Chestertown for crabs rather than going to Rock Hall would be a huge economic impact on the Town.

Ms. Ellis moved to approve preliminary site plan of the Fish Whistle deck expansion with the understanding that the applicant will return with the parking analysis, easement approvals and a lighting plan, was seconded by Ms. Richman and carried unanimously.

ROYAL FARMS – 848 HIGH STREET – CONCEPT PLAN

Mr. Kevin Shearon of DMS & Associates was present for the application. Mr. Shearon stated that Mr. Jack Wistead was planning to attend this meeting, but had taken ill and sends his apologies.

Mr. Kevin Shearon gave a PowerPoint presentation on the evolution of the plan thus far.

Mr. Shearon stated that there were two (2) parcels, which were subdivided out of a larger lot some time ago. The current owners are Partners II of Montebello and the managing member is General Doug O’Dell.  Royal Farms was under contract to purchase both properties and combine them back into one 2.9 acre parcel.  The property is zoned C-3 (Neighborhood Commercial) and backs up to the Gilchrest Rail Trail.  The property is not located in the Critical Area and the proposed buildings for the site would be constructed out of the floodplain.  This remediation of the site was approved by MDE.

Mr. Shearon stated that most of the site was at one point impervious. There was a State right-of-way purchased for the purpose of installing the roundabout.  The non-tidal wetlands have been delineated.  The State Highway Administration does have some easements on the property which were noted on the plat.

Mr. Shearon stated that the development area was 1.88 acres. He showed the original layout which had the store in the center of the site with canopies for the gas pumps on both sides.  Mr. Shearon stated that in working with Mr. de Mooy, they looked to combine the two (2) canopies into one (1) larger canopy situated on the side of the property, which opened up the gateway for more greenspace and reduced the amount of impervious cover.  Mr. Shearon stated that street trees are planned along Rt. 20/High Street to address the Comprehensive Plan’s concern for this gateway into Chestertown.

Mr. Shearon showed renderings of the new layout proposed for the building. He said that outdoor seating was incorporated with fixed tables and benches.  The canopy would house three (3) fueling islands with two (2) pump stations in each.  Parking was eliminated closest to the roundabout, which opened additional greenspace.  Parking was kept to the side and rear of the building, with only one bank of parking in front of the store.  There would be entrances on both sides of the building.  Pedestrian linkage would be from the Gilchrest Rail Trail and via a sidewalk paralleling the roundabout and Route 20.  Bike racks and a free air fill station would be available by the Trail.

Mr. Shearon stated that stone and hardiplank siding would be used on the building. The canopy would incorporate the stone wainscoting on the store to tie the architecture together.  The trash corral was tucked in the rear of the property so it is not visible from Rt. 20.  Lighting will be night sky compliant high efficiency.

Mr. de Mooy stated that in December 2015, the Planning Commission discussed the pump restriction included in C-3 Zoning. He said that convenience stores are a permitted use and fuel pumps are permitted under accessory uses with “a maximum of two (2) service islands with two (2) fuel pumps each”.  Mr. de Mooy stated that a service island in this context was the concrete base with two (2) fuel pumps each for a total of four (4) pumps.  Mr. de Mooy stated that the lawyer for Royal Farms requested a text amendment to change the requirements in the accessory uses to allow a higher number of pumps, as Royal Farms was requesting three (3) pumps per island.

Mr. de Mooy stated that the Planning Commission unanimously voted to forward the text amendment request to the Mayor and Council for their approval. Items discussed and included in the Planning Commission’s letter to the Mayor and Council were as follows:

  1. Prior to the most recent Comprehensive Rezoning in 2012, the site where the six (6) pumps proposed to be located was zoned C-1 at which time there was no limitation on the number of pumps;
  2. The site for the proposed location of the Royal Farms convenience store consists of two (2) parcels, which together is 2.9 acres, substantially higher than the minimum 2-acre minimum lot size described in the text amendment;
  3. Kevin Shearon presented a list of properties in the C-3 District that are more than 2 acres, they being Brooks Mill Site at 860 High Street (already developed), Dr. Ross’ LabCorp Property at 516 Washington Avenue (already developed), and two (2) parcels south of the Gilchrest Rail Trail in the wetlands which essentially could not be developed;
  4. The relatively large size of the site, particularly with the two (2) parcels combined allows for substantial landscaping and reductions in existing impervious surfaces, which contributes to reducing the visual impact of the proposed use. Sidewalks at the north end of the property improve pedestrian connectivity and a connection is proposed to the Rail Trail with a bike rack and air pump for cyclists. These factors support the Comprehensive Plan’s goal in enhancing pedestrian and cycling connectivity as well as improving the aesthetic appearance of the Town’s Route 20 gateway which was already seeing substantial improvement with the construction of Gateway Park.
  5. Traffic generated by the site was discussed and a representative from Royal Farms testified that their convenience stores capture existing traffic and do not generate additional traffic.

Mr. de Mooy stated that at the Mayor and Council meeting there was discussion regarding the text amendment and a decision was not reached. The Town Manager and Zoning Administrator met with the Town Attorney to discuss a section of the Site Plan requirements under Section 176(b) which states, “the Planning Commission may establish additional requirements for preliminary site plan and in special cases may waive a particular requirement if, in its opinion, the inclusion of that requirement is not essential to a proper decision of the project”.

Mr. de Mooy stated that in the context of the larger development of the site and given that fuel pumps are an accessory use to the permitted use of a convenience store, the Town Attorney concurred that the Planning Commission had the ability to waive the maximum number of pumps if the opinion was that it was not essential to a proper decision of the project.

Mr. Bowering stated that he found the application represented as a convenience store selling gas was disingenuous as he viewed Royal Farms as a gas station with a convenience store. Mr. Shearon stated that Royal Farms was a convenience store first and foremost.

Mr. Grotsky stated that if the Commission did not have a problem with three (3) pumps at each island, rather than the two (2) allowed in the Zoning Ordinance they had the ability to approve the layout for the project.

Mr. de Mooy stated that the sign as shown on the front of the building would be permitted; the canopy sign would not. There would be a sign at the road, likely with a stone or brick base showing the gas prices.

Mr. Showalter asked what was anticipated for the open space on the plan. Mr. Shearon stated that he thought it was open to suggestion, but may be left as grass or used for storm water management.  Mr. Shearon stated that impervious cover was a reduction from the previous existing conditions at the site so storm water management was minimal.

Mr. Showalter asked about light spilling from the interior of the convenience store. He said that any Royal Farms he has seen has a lot of light spilling out from the store due to the amount of glass.  Mr. Shearon stated that there was an electrical engineer working on a photometric plan and said that he would discuss the brightness with him.  Mr. Showalter suggested a film similar to what was used at the new convenience store on the corner of Maple Avenue and Cross Street.  Mr. Shearon was asked about lighting on the canopy and he said he would check as to whether it was recessed or not.

Mr. Grotsky stated that a sidewalk from the Rail Trail was a good idea, but may create trash problems. He said that there should be a commitment on the part of Royal Farms to keep that area clean.

Mr. Shearon stated that the trash corral would likely be masonry surround with brick or stone.

Ms. Richman stated that she liked the fact that Royal Farms connected to the Rail Trail. Mr. Showalter stated that some people may use the parking lot to unload their bikes for use on the Trail.

Mr. Gatto stated that when General O’Dell first came in with plans for this property he made a commitment to reserve an easement for a bridge crossing the creek to the Gateway Park, and said that would be a vital link to the Gateway Park tying into the Gilchrest Trail. Mr. de Mooy stated that the actual distance that would have to be traversed by a bridge through floodplain and wetland areas would result in a permitting nightmare and the distance was considerable further than anticipated.  Mr. Gatto stated that although permitting was a nightmare it would be a benefit to the Town long-term once all the walkways are built throughout Town.

Mr. Grotsky stated that he had some questions regarding the entrances and asked if permits from the State Highway Administration have been granted. Mr. Shearon stated that SHA has completed a traffic impact study that is under review.  He said that SHA asked them to use “pork chops” at the entrances and exits, allowing right turn in, right turn out only.

Mr. Craig moved for waive the requirement under accessory uses in the C-3 (Neighborhood Commercial) district of two (2) islands with two (2) pumps for the proposed Royal Farms site at 848 High Street, allowing three (3) islands with two (3) pumps to be constructed under one (1) canopy, was seconded by Mr. Showalter and carried unanimously.

There being no further business, Ms. Bowering moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:02 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Showalter and carried unanimously.

 Submitted by:                                                 Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                            Jeffrey Grotsky

Stenographer                                                   Chair

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