Planning Commission, 2018|

PLANNING COMMISSION

JUNE 20, 2018

Chairman Jeffrey Grotsky, called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.  In attendance were Commission members David Bowering, Darrell Craig, Morgan Ellis, Robert Fordi 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 April 18, 2018.  Mr. Showalter moved to approve the minutes as presented, was seconded by Ms. Ellis and carried unanimously.

There was no meeting held in May 2018.

PRELIMINARY SITE PLAN – SEMANS-GRISWOLD ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

Mr. Reid Raudenbush of Washington College and Mr. Kevin Shearon of DMS & Associates were present for the application.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that they were here this evening to give a progress report on the Semans-Griswold Environmental Building having revised their plans to address the issues raised by the Commission at the April 2018 meeting.

Mr. Shearon stated that schematic designs were completed and were now in design/development phase.  The majority of the layout has not changed, noting that the building was the same size as proposed and in the same location.  The construction currently taking place on site is the geothermal well field that will support both boathouses and both phases of the Semans-Griswold Environmental Center.

Mr. Shearon showed a PowerPoint presentation.  He said that the a change in the plan reflected the trail looping from the Boathouse to the Semans-Griswold building will now extend from the gravel road to the boathouse and loop back to the parking area

Mr. Shearon stated that there were 29 proposed parking spaces for the site and when Phases I and II are combined there will be 34 total parking spaces required.  Mr. Shearon stated that he ran calculations based on the zoning code of the Town based upon classrooms, lab, and office spaces which gave them a requirement of 19 spaces.  He said that they planned to install 29 parking spaces.  Mr. Shearon stated that the option for Phase II would provide a connection to an additional 5 spaces.  Mr. Showalter stated that 2 handicap spaces were on the plan and asked how the College came to that conclusion.  Mr. Shearon stated that 1 handicap parking space was required for every 25 parking spaces.

Mr. Shearon stated that the path along the waterfront will be a mown path in a meadow setting and will divert off the hard path located in other areas of the site.

Mr. Shearon stated that a flow-through system was proposed for the labs so there will be a series of pipes from the dock with pumps that will siphon water to the labs for experiments and then discharge that water into a settling pond before discharging back to the river.  He said that he was in the process of permitting with MDE for this portion of the project.

Mr. Shearon stated that landscaping plans were submitted identifying areas for trees, meadows, and other plantings.  The final selections have not been made but there were several suggestions of native grasses, trees and shrubs.  Mr. de Mooy asked how the landscaping plans contribute to the designation of the Living Building Challenge.  Mr. Shearon stated that the landscaping was not included to a great extent in the Living Building Challenge; it was more for aesthetics.  Mr. de Mooy asked how the landscaping plan addressed mitigation needs on site.  Mr. Shearon stated that because the building did not enter the 100’ buffer along the shoreline, mitigation was not necessary but plantings will be similar to those in front of the boathouse.

Mr. Shearon showed light fixtures for the pathways along with a grading plan.  He said that low lighting on site will be LED and night sky compatible.  Pathway lighting will be on at 10% of capacity and when triggered by motion sensor will increase to 100%. Mr. Shearon stated that cut sheets of the proposed lighting were distributed to the Commission.  Lighting would be installed in the parking lot and on the paths to the front door.  The pole lights were 12’ in height, pedestrian in scale, and night sky compliant.

Mr. Shearon stated that materials have not been finalized to date, but he showed renderings of the building which were similar in materials to the new boathouse.

Mr. Craig stated that the lighting would need additional detail for approval, and suggested including photometrics for the final review.

Mr. Craig stated that he thought parking was an issue.  He said that he understood how Mr. Shearon came to his numbers required for parking but thought that the numbers were chosen based on how the College wanted them to work.  He said that he did his own calculations and additional parking was required.  He said that it was important for the College to understand that there would be many unhappy people if Wilmer Park became a parking lot for students.  Mr. Craig asked if parking at the Armory would be an option for students, adding that he did not want to see the project under designed.  Mr. Bowering stated that while the parking calculations are rational on paper it seems as though the parking is inadequate for the site and will cause spill over especially during large events.

Ms. Ellis stated that she was not concerned about having enough parking at this particular site but said that parking is a continuing problem with Washington College.  She said that this particular project was a Living Building Challenge and that the ethos around it should support that effort to be more sustainable.  Ms. Ellis stated that a holistic approach to transportation should be undertaken by the College, implementing a transportation plan for students from campus and off-site facilities.  Ms. Ellis stated that parking could be tight on this site but she would prefer no parking than students arriving to it in a single occupancy vehicle.  Biking and walking should be encouraged as well as ride or van share.  She said that visitors to a no emissions building such as the one proposed should have emissions reduction in mind when getting there.

Mr. Grotksy asked if the Armory was an option for parking when the ultimate use of the Armory has not been decided.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that is why the Armory was not committed for use in this plan.  He said that when a use for the Armory was determined he did not want to struggle with promises made for a neighboring site.

Mr. de Mooy stated that there were very few parking spaces created at the new academic center on Washington Avenue and now students are parking on Philosopher’s Terrace.  He said that the Town could step in by increasing parking fines in certain areas.  Mr. de Mooy stated that parking should be designated for students and the campus should encourage bicycles and walking.  Mr. Bowering stated that the Commission had no control over the students or the College but they could make certain there was sufficient parking available to students so they are not parking in other public areas.

Mr. Fordi asked where people park during regattas or larger functions.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that parking occurs at the boathouse, Armory, Stepne Farm, and the lot at Stepne Station (with permission from KRM).  Mr. Raudenbush stated that the Wilmer Park parking lot is also open for large events.

Mr. Fordi asked the total parking spaces on the boathouse parking lot.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that he thought there were 30 spaces.  Mr. Fordi suggested connecting the boathouse parking lot with this proposal, noting that most times the boathouse is in use early morning and not used during class room hours.  Mr. Shearon stated that he could try to come up with an alternate for an expanded parking lot and see how many additional spaces would be gained by combining them.  Mr. Shearon stated that there could be additional discussions on the timing of uses at both the boathouse and the environmental center.

Mr. Shearon stated that he would return for final approval at a later date.

CONDITIONAL USE – CHESTERTOWN VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY – 211 MAPLE AVENUE –  SIGN

Ms. Mulligan stated that this application had to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals as a Conditional Use and the Fire Company was seeking a recommendation from the Planning Commission for their application.  The application will also go before the Historic District Commission.  Ms. Mulligan stated that the Fire Department is a Conditional Use by its nature and the proposed sign was non-conforming.

Ms. Mulligan stated that the sign as proposed was internally lit with changeable copy.  The sign would have a brick border and a sign on top of the plastic signboard reading “Chestertown Volunteer Fire Co., Inc.”

Mr. Dave Eason, Mr. Mark Mumford and Mr. Walter Coryell were present on behalf of the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company.  Mr. Eason stated that the wooden sign with changeable copy was rotten and falling apart.  Mr. Eason stated that over the past couple years there has been quite a bit of time and money spent dressing up the Fire Company.  Mr. Eason stated that the Fire Company volunteers perform most of the work themselves since funding from the State, County and Town only meeting approximately 80% of their budget.  Mr. Eason stated that this sign would not only help the public, but it would help the Fire Company in their endeavors to raise money for the Fire Company with notices of barbeques, fundraisers and hall rentals.  Mr. Eason stated that the sign would mainly be used for public information messages such as when to change smoke detector batteries, impending storms, or if someone was in need of a shelter or safe haven.  He said that the internal lighting of the sign was low and it would not be intrusive.

Mr. Eason stated that the Fire Company has already spent $5,000.00 on the sign and it was ordered prematurely.  He said that he would be happy to put the sign out for anyone to see how it will appear at night.

Mr. Eason stated that the signboard was 32 sq.ft.  Mr. Eason stated that what really made increased the size of the signage would be the brickwork and Chestertown Volunteer Fire Co. Signage as proposed.  He said that he thought this was an attractive sign and would pay tribute to the Town and their department.  He said that he calculated the existing sign including the brick and it was 49 sq.ft. total.  The existing wooden sign was 27 sq.ft. total.

Mr. Showalter asked how large the sign would become with the proposed borders.  Ms. Mulligan stated that the sign would be 66 sq.ft., 10’ wide with the brick border and 6’5” high with the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company sign in wood.  Mr. Eason stated that the sign would be located in the same place as it was currently.

Mr. Craig stated that he saw no problem with the sign, noting that it was much more attractive that what was currently in place.  He said that because of the function that the Fire Company provides, he did not see a problem with the size of the sign.

Mr. de Mooy stated that the Sign Ordinance and Historic District Commission do not permit internally lit signs.  He said that if the Zoning Board of Appeals approves the sign he did not think it would be terribly hard to externally light the sign if that was a requirement.  Mr. de Mooy stated that the Garfield Center just recently purchased an internally lit sign but they were not permitted to light it, as the canopy lighting provides sufficient illumination.  He also cited the UMD Shore Regional Health building on Philosophers Terrace, which has an externally lit sign.

Ms. Mulligan stated that conditional use allowing the Fire Company is outlined in the Zoning Code as “educational or philanthropic institutions including museums, art galleries and libraries or semi-public governmental or public buildings not otherwise listed including fire stations and other public safety facilities”.

Mr. de Mooy stated that there was an established precedent and practice in the sign ordinance that did not allow internally lit signs, but that was not what the Planning Commission can rule upon.  Mr. de Mooy stated that internally lit signs are not permitted within the Historic District, but he said that he will look more into the matter given the purpose of the Fire Company.

Mr. Showalter stated that if for some reason, the sign had to be lit externally he would like to insure that the lights were Night Sky compliant.

Mr. Grotsky stated that the minutes should reflect that the Commission sends a positive recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals for the sign as proposed at 211 Maple Avenue, with no opinion over the use of the internal lighting.  However, any indirect lighting should be Night Sky compliant.

SEASONAL PRODUCE STAND – 717 WASHINGTON AVENUE (THE FREEZE)

Mr. Bob Arnold, owner of Arnold Farms, was present for the application.  Mr. Arnold stated that the produce stand would be similar to the one at Southern States in Kingstown.  He said that the stand will have a tent and will be in operation from July through October.

Mr. Arnold stated that this is a good location because there is plenty of parking and ingress/egress both from Scheeler Drive and Washington Avenue.  The Tow Mater tow truck currently parked at the location where the tent will be erected will be moved to the rear of the site.

Mr. Arnold stated that more people are looking for meal solutions than produce in this day and age.  He said that Arnold Farms will be experimenting to see if they can make something like that happen in Chestertown.

Mr. de Mooy stated that the proposed use is probationary and site dependent.  He said that this was a good site with ingress and egress from two sides and plenty of parking.  Mr. de Mooy stated that the tent would clearly have to be set out of the line of incoming traffic and delineating the available internal parking would be helpful.

Mr. Grotsky asked if Arnold Farms would be leaving the Kingstown location.  Mr. Arnold said that they would not leave that location, but they were interested in seeing how business would be on this side of the bridge.

Mr. Fordi asked what would remain on the site after hours.  Mr. Arnold stated that they would take everything with them at night, except for the tent.  He said that in the fall they may be able to leave some things under cover, but not during the summer months.

Mr. Bowering moved to approve the request for a seasonal produce stand from June through October in The Freeze parking lot at 717 Washington Avenue with a temporary structure as presented to the Commission, and with the understanding that this type of approval was always given on a probationary basis, was seconded by Ms. Ellis and carried unanimously.

There being no further business, Mr. Fordi moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:40 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Ellis and carried unanimously.

Submitted by:                                                 Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                           Jeffrey Grotsky

Stenographer                                                   Chair

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