MAYOR AND COUNCIL
PROPOSED TEXT AMENDMENT – C3 ZONING
JANUARY 20, 2016
Mayor Chris Cerino called the public hearing to order at 7:00 p.m. In attendance were Council members Linda C. Kuiper, Samuel T. Shoge, Mauritz Stetson, W. S. Ingersoll, Town Manager, Kees de Mooy, Zoning Administrator, Jennifer Mulligan, Town Clerk and guests.
Mayor Cerino read the Public Notice (published in the Kent County News on December 31, 2015 and posted on the website) into the record:
On December 16, 2015, the Chestertown Planning Commission reviewed a proposed text change amendment for the C-3 Neighborhood Commercial District as follows, “Under Permitted Accessory Uses within the present C-3 District, Section 170-43(C)(8)(c) stipulates that “A maximum of two (2) service islands with two (2) fuel pumps each are permitted.” The proposal is to amend this section to permit two additional fuel pumps by adding the following language: “Notwithstanding the previous limitation, the Planning Commission may allow (1) additional service island with two (2) fuel pumps if the lot/parcel on which the use is located is two (2) acres or greater in size, and the lot/parcel does not abut a residential zoning district.”
A public hearing on this amendment will be held at 7:00 p.m. on January 20, 2016 at Town Hall. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend. The complete text of the ordinance is available at the office of the Mayor and Council, 118 N. Cross Street.
By authority of
Chris Cerino, Mayor
Mayor Cerino asked Kees de Mooy, the Zoning Administrator, to explain the proposed change. Mr. de Mooy explained the difference between an island and a fueling pump. He said that the island is the concrete structure upon which the fueling pumps are located. The zoning code for C-3 permits two (2) islands with two (2) pumps, which allows room for eight (8) cars to get fuel at one time. The applicant was asking for one (1) additional island with two (2) additional pumps to be available on lots consisting of 2 or more acres in the C-3 Neighborhood Commercial District. Mr. de Mooy had a map and described the general areas in which C-3 Zoning applied in Town.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the Planning Commission deliberated on this site and whether or not it would be able to absorb two (2) additional pumps and made a positive recommendation to the Mayor and Council for the text change amendment. A formal site plan has not yet been submitted to the Planning Commission, although the Commission did see a conceptual drawing.
Mayor Cerino stated that the public comment this evening was for the text amendment request only. There would be no vote at this meeting and the site plan was not under discussion. He asked for comments from the visitors.
Ms. Alice Macnow, resident of South Kent Street, stated that she had several problems with the text amendment. She said that this text amendment was not for one site, but if approved, would change throughout the entire C-3 Neighborhood Commercial District. She said that she did not think that this followed normal procedures and that many years were spent considering the C-3 zoning in place, adding there were reasons why limitations were placed on the amount of fuel pumps permitted on a site. She said there were already enough underground storage tanks in place in Chestertown. Ms. Macnow stated that she was also concerned about traffic as additional fuel tanks bring additional cars.
Legal counsel for Royal Farms, Joe Stevens, Esquire, stated that he submitted an amendment to the Town Council, who referred it to the Planning Commission. He said that this proposed amendment was limited in four (4) ways as follows:
- The request was for one additional island only with two (2) pumps;
- The parcel would have to be 2 or more acres in size;
- The pumps could not abut a residential district; and
- The decision to approve or deny the additional island would be left to the discretion of the Planning Commission.
Mr. Stevens stated that there were only a few property owners in the C-3 Neighborhood Commercial District who could be affected by this text change, saying that a larger parcel should have flexibility. He said that the Planning Commission gave a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council on the text change and would review all other aspects of the plan when site plan was submitted
General Doug O’Dell, owner, stated that he and his wife have owned this property for approximately 11 years and have appeared before the Planning Commission numerous times. He said he has paid for market studies of the area. He said that his intent was to find the highest and best use of a property and he was sympathetic to the fact that this site was a gateway into Town. He said that he when he bought the site it was an abandoned eyesore as well as a hazard to the public. He paid for site remediation. There were a number of ideas for different projects submitted for high end office and commercial but cost and the economy made it economically unfeasible. He said that the traffic count at this intersection is 12,000 cars a day and was second only to Rt. 213 and Rt. 291. He said that he thought the highest and best use for this site would be for a convenience store. Mr. O’Dell stated that he was encouraged that there seemed to be reasonable compromise taking place between Royal Farms and the Planning Commission.
Barbara Jorgenson, Esquire, resident of Washington Avenue, stated that this request by Mr. Stevens and Royal Farms was an “end run” in an effort to create a business in this location that did not conform to zoning. She said that the applicant should have gone to the Chestertown Zoning Board of Appeals. She said when that question was asked at the Planning Commission Mr. Stevens told the Commission that he did not think the request would be granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Ms. Jorgenson stated that she believed that the rules of law should be followed and this text amendment request should be denied. The applicant should then be sent to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Ms. Jorgenson stated that the pumps not abutting a residential property was not enough of a limitation and the gateway should not be turned into a gas station.
Mr. Kevin Shearon of DMS & Associates, stated that he was the engineer for this Royal Farms project. He pointed out that there were only five (5) properties in the C-3 Neighborhood Commercial District that are larger than 2 acres and not abutting residential zones. The properties were Radcliffe Mill, the subject property, two adjoining properties on the other side of the rail trail on High Street with no street frontage, and Dr. Ross’ medical building on Washington Avenue. Mr. Shearon stated that to his knowledge going to the Zoning Board of Appeals was not an option.
Mr. Shoge asked why there was a need for an additional fueling station. Mr. Jack Winsted, Senior Engineer with Royal Farms stated that a minimum of six (6) fueling positions would make the site economical. He said that Royal Farms was a convenience store that sold gas and the gas supported Royal Farms economics. He said that traffic counts at this location were higher than the numbers across the bridge at the intersection of MD 213 and MD 544.
Mr. Shoge asked what would happen to the Royal Farms that already exists in Chestertown. Mr. Winsted said that location would close and be made available for purchase.
Ms. Kuiper asked if when a credit card is used at Royal Farms, the zip code you enter is used as an indicator of where to locate a store. Mr. Winsted stated that they base their indicators on traffic counts not gas purchases.
Mr. Sunil Datta, owner of Sunny’s Market, stated that allowing for six (6) pumps at this site would cause more traffic problems than already exist at this location. He said that entering and exiting this site in the round-a-bout would not work. He said that a store of this size with more than four (4) gas pumps needs a much larger site.
Mr. Matt Hogans, owner of Hogans Agency representing Doug O’Dell, stated that the text amendment was consistent with the Town’s plans for the property and enhanced efforts to bring new businesses to Town by providing flexibility to an otherwise permitted use.
Mr. Hassan Mahmood, owner of Lewes Dairy, stated that he thought allowing Royal Farms at this site would hurt existing businesses that were hurting already due to the build-out of the round-a-bout. He said that people can barely get into the car wash as it is and adding an additional entrance and exit would be a problem. He said that all of the small businesses on that end of Town will suffer as a result of a Royal Farms as it was akin to Walmart coming to Town and putting local stores out of business.
Mr. Ingersoll stated that any zoning text amendment would be processed as a Town Ordinance with a two meeting process of introduction and later enactment.
There being none, Mayor Cerino closed the Public Hearing at 7:35 p.m.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Chris Cerino
Town Clerk Mayor