PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING
APRIL 15, 2020
Chair Jeffery Grotsky called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance at the meeting were Rob Busler, Darell Craig, Morgan Ellis, John Hutchison and Jane Richman, Kees de Mooy (Zoning Administrator), Jennifer Mulligan (Town Clerk) and guests.
Mr. Grotsky asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the March 18, 2020 Planning Commission meeting. Mr. Craig moved to approve the minutes of the March 18, 2020 Planning Commission meeting as submitted, was seconded by Ms. Ellis, and carried unanimously.
DUNKIN DONUTS ON WASHINGTON AVENUE (FORMER PLAZA TAPATIA SITE) – CONCEPT PLAN
Mr. Kevin Shearon of DMS & Associates and Mr. Nick Niztasos, owner, were present for the application. Mr. Shearon stated that he came before the Planning Commission last month to review a concept plan for a new building and as they progressed with the engineering plans they wanted to discuss the concept more in depth. Mr. Shearon stated that there is an existing building on a different site, like the one they are proposing, and he showed photos, which included the earth tone color, texture, brick, and other elements of the building. He said that he thought that the Commission members thought it may have been too monotone at the last presentation.
Ms. Ellis asked about the orientation of the building. Mr. Shearon showed the façade that would face Rt. 213 which had a 13’ projection where the pick-up window would be located. The remaining facades were also shown.
Mr. Shearon showed a floor plan with the main entrance facing the shopping center driveway, which included a main dining area, places for ordering and the pick-up area. A preliminary landscape plan was shown as well, although he said that it was not finished.
Mr. Shearon stated that existing trees on site would be removed and there would be a monument sign placed along the corner on Rt. 213. There were existing crepe myrtles on site which would be supplemented with shrubs. The drive-thru lane has a low hedge and there were some landscape beds next to the main entrance from the Kent Plaza parking lot. A landscaped bio-retention area would be located along Rt. 213.
Mr. Grotsky asked if the plantings were native. Mr. Shearon stated that some of the plantings listed at this time were not and they would go back to the landscape architect to see that those plants were changed to native species.
Mr. Busler asked why a monumental sign would be necessary at the entrance since the signage proposed for the building seemed adequate for all to see. Mr. Niztasos stated that the Arby’s building would eclipse the structure and he wanted to position a sign that could be seen past that building by vehicles along Rt. 213. Mr. de Mooy stated that signage was strict in Chestertown and would not be rolled into approvals for the site plan. He said that one sign was permitted on the building and a monument sign if the criteria were met.
Mr. Niztasos asked if a monument sign can be traded for an additional sign on the building. Ms. Ellis stated that her understanding was that there could be either a DD sign or a Dunkin sign and a monument sign, but nothing else. Any sign proposal would have to conform to the maximum size limit allowed in C-1 zoning. Mr. de Mooy agreed.
Mr. Busler stated that there appeared to be a lot of planting along Rt. 213 where people would have to pull out quite a distance onto the road to exit whereas the other building driveways are open to the road. He said that he was concerned about the opaqueness of the site. Mr. Shearon stated that he would take a closer look at the plantings.
Mr. Hutchison asked why the main monument sign for the shopping center was placed so far back off Washington Avenue. Mr. de Mooy stated that the sign predates his living in Chestertown, and he did not know the process as to how or why the sign was placed where it stands.
Ms. Ellis asked about site lighting. Mr. Shearon stated that site lighting exists, but they were looking to change the pole fixtures to make it more in keeping with the rest of the shopping center. He said that lighting would be explored further as they move along with engineering.
Mr. Craig stated that he was concerned over ordering and picking up on the Rt. 213 side of the building. Mr. Niztasos stated that the menu board for ordering was on the back side of the building, but the pick-up window was still on the Rt. 213 side.
Ms. Richman stated asked how many entrances there were to the building. Mr. Shearon stated that there was one entrance on the south side (opposite the side of the drive-thru) plus a door for employees, which could be used in case of emergency.
Mr. Hutchison asked if play equipment was shown in the photos. Mr. Niztasos stated play equipment was not proposed for this site and that the photos he had used was to demonstrate how the main building would look.
Ms. Richman stated that at the last meeting it was mentioned that busy hours for Dunkin’ Donuts are earlier than that of the shopping center but asked if the other drive-thru’s on Rt. 213 were open at those hours. Mr. Niztasos stated that the peak hours for Dunkin Donuts were between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. (70% of the business) although the store would be open until 10 p.m. He said that the other take out restaurants were not open as early as 5 a.m.
Mr. Grotsky asked if there was a reason that there was only one front door. Mr. Niztasos stated that there was a service door on the rear, which was not really for the public, but he was not against adding a second door on the front.
Mr. Craig asked where the trash would be placed. Mr. Shearon stated that there was a trash corral located by the back door. Ms. Richman asked if the dumpster would be enclosed. Mr. Niztasos stated that it would be enclosed.
Mr. Niztasos asked for guidance on the signage. Mr. Shearon stated that he had the information for signage and would work on that separately and present it to Mr. de Mooy.
Mr. Hutchison asked how many cars are typically in line at their busiest. Mr. Niztasos stated that they provide for a 5-car stack but there are normally not more than 3 cars in line at one time.
Mr. de Mooy stated that this was a concept review only and no motions would be made at this time.
DRAFT ORDINANCE 05-2020 AMENDMENT TO CHAPTER 170 – ZONING
Mr. de Mooy stated that he sent out a draft version of the proposed ordinance. He stated that changing the maximum height of buildings has a trickle-down effect on other parts of the zoning ordinance. He said that the visual impact of additional massing for single-family developments, streets, trails, and water had to be analyzed. He said that the amendment would be presented to the Mayor and Council once all revisions were finalized by the Planning Commission. Mr. de Mooy stated that allowing 4-story development was in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan and if the Planning Commission was positively inclined, that that findings of fact should be included such as more compact development, preservation of green space, and lessened environmental impact. He said that the ordinance assumes that the decision to modify the zoning will be unanimous, and that the Planning Commission would make a decision at the May 2020 meeting.
Mr. de Mooy stated that once a motion was made by the Commission, the Ordinance would be forwarded to the Mayor and Council for a public hearing. Mr. de Mooy read into the record the changes that would be made to Chapter 170.
Mr. de Mooy stated that R-4 zoning states that buildings are generally low enough to be compatible with neighborhoods and that if 4-storys are permitted they should not be allowed next to a single family residential development; rather they should be in scale with the neighboring surroundings.
Mr. de Mooy stated that individual districts are described in Article V – Zoning in the Ordinance, and that Article VI discusses supplementary height and bulk recommendations. There were also guidelines pertaining to complexes of more than one building, with minimum width and distances to be determined at the discretion of the Planning Commission.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the draft of the Table of District Regulations has also been amended to include the changes proposed under the Ordinance. This summarizes lot requirements, height and setbacks for each district and the changes were marked in red on the document. Mr. Hutchison developed a 3-D model showing the setback distances and how they would look on a site with a minimum size of 5-acres. This information is duplicated in the Traditional Neighborhood Development section of the Table. These changes would affect R-4 and R-6 zoning, but only parcels large enough to accommodate the required setbacks.
Mr. Hutchison stated that he was trying to look at scale and created a model. He said that the took what was currently required in R-4 and showed a 3-story townhouse meeting the current setback requirements. He said that he compared that to the proposal for 4-story buildings, with a minimum of 8 apartments. He showed 4 stories at 4,000 sq.ft. and the same footprint at 4 stories on a 500 x 500’ lot. He showed differences in scale and profile changes in comparison to 3-story and 4-story buildings including the different setbacks.
Mr. de Mooy stated that there are no perfect 500’ x 500’ or 5-acre lots available for this type of development, but the Talbot Boulevard lot is over 20 acres and the other properties that could potentially accommodate 4-story development are even larger, which is important to remember when looking at the model. Mr. Craig asked the height of the buildings in the model. Mr. Hutchison stated that what was shown was the difference between proposed 60’ height and the currently permitted 40’ height.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the current proposal had a 47’ total height with a parapet but in certain circumstances the Commission might want to be able to go higher. Stepne Manor has floodplain issues where the first floor may have to be 6’ or more in the air to clear the flood plain. Therefore, 60’ is a compromise that allows for a gable style roof and varying topography. Mr. de Mooy stated that he and Mr. Ingersoll discussed flexibility in different roof styles and topography which is where they arrived at the 60’ height limitation, which would not create a by-right problem. The height limitation would be at the discretion of the Planning Commission under limited circumstances with visual impact being the controlling factor.
Mr. de Mooy stated that given the 100’ setback there would not be a one-size fits all scenario. He said that he tried to find lot size numbers large enough to accommodate the 100’ minimum setbacks. Mr. Busler stated that the large jump in numbers causes this to appear that it is out of the realm of possibility by adding one floor. He asked why they would do this if there were only one or two sites that would meet the requirements.
Mr. de Mooy stated that for a building this size to be permitted the site would have to be large enough to address the issue of the visual impact. He said that if the Commission felt differently, they should ask for reductions as nobody was wedded to the numbers. Mr. Busler stated that he did not think it created the opportunity for much buildout in the future.
Mr. Hutchsion stated that he was trying to figure out the scale and the difference between an 8 apartment, 4-story building, which is completely different than a 100’ x 300’ building on the same amount of acreage. He said it seemed restricting in terms of future development. Mr. Craig stated that he thought it was up to the developer to decide what he wanted to build on the acreage.
Mr. Busler asked if there was a study showing acreage available in terms of development opportunity. Mr. de Mooy stated that there is not, but he could with GIS, adding that there were only so many undeveloped parcels in Town. Ms. Ellis stated that she thought the analysis would be helpful.
Mr. Busler asked how many acres the KRM property was on Cannon Street. Mr. de Mooy stated that he would find that information and provide it to the Commission.
Ms. Ellis asked what types of setbacks have been used elsewhere. Mr. Busler stated that setbacks are usually set for residential housing at an angle created with a side-yard setback allowing for greater height. Mr. Hutchison stated that this was called a “setback to height ratio” and has been his experience as well, adding that the setback to height can be either on a 1 to 1 or 1 to 2 ratios.
Ms. Ellis asked how tall the new Dixon Building was. Mr. de Mooy stated that it has to be close to the 40’ permitted as permitted in the current zoning.
Mr. de Mooy stated that there were also guidelines for development at the back of the Zoning Ordinance which flesh out what was eluded to in Article V. He has not included changes to that section in the draft text amendment, but this would be the place to add additional language regarding the mitigation of visual impacts.
Ms. Ellis asked if the design guidelines only pertained to R-6 Traditional Neighborhood Development. Mr. de Mooy stated that this also applied to the C-3 Neighborhood Commercial and Institutional Zones.
Mr. de Mooy stated that Mr. Meehan made the text amendment request for his proposed development, but it is being expanded to allow 4-story development in other areas. Mr. Meehan was present and stated that he did not have any comments, but the numbers worked for what he was proposing, and he thought it was good to give the Planning Commission the control as was done in this proposed ordinance. He said that the did not see anything objectionable to the proposed language.
Ms. Ellis asked what Mr. Meehan’s setbacks were from the rail-trail. Mr. Meehan stated that it was at least 150’ from the rail trail and they were hundreds of feet from Talbot Boulevard.
Mr. de Mooy stated that decisions regarding the text amendment should be deferred until the May meeting, and he would review other Towns and send information to the Commission regarding lot sizes and setbacks as well as minimum acreage for 4-story development.
Mr. de Mooy stated that he would add additional language to the Design Guidelines and look more closely at the Table of District Regulations. Mr. Busler asked how information should be shared. Mr. de Mooy stated that if anyone had questions they could be sent to him and he would work through them and send the information to the Commission for consideration and discussion at the May 2020 meeting.
Mr. Hutchison asked how the Commission felt about allowing 4-story buildings on smaller lots if they met the height ratio requirements. He said that he thought it provided flexibility in many ways. Mr. Craig stated that he had no objections if the buildings fit aesthetically with the Town. Ms. Richman agreed. Ms. Ellis and Mr. Busler stated that they wanted to think about this before giving their recommendations. Ms. Richman stated that she liked that it was left up to the discretion of the Planning Commission and decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis which was important to leave in the language of the ordinance.
Ms. Ellis stated that it may be helpful to see Mr. Hutchison’s designs on smaller lots as that provides a nice visual for how a building may look on different lots. Mr. Hutchison stated that he could provide some samples for the Commission to review. Mr. de Mooy stated that he would forward numbers based on his research of other municipalities that permit 4-story development.
Mr. Grotsky stated that the amendment would be discussed again at the May meeting.
There being no further discussion, Mr. Hutchison moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:05 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Ellis and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Jeffery Grotsky
Town Clerk Chairman