DECEMBER 16, 2015
In the absence of a Chairman, the Commission agreed that Mr. Paul Showalter would act as Chair. Mr. Showalter called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Commission members David Bowering, Darrell Craig and Rob Fordi, 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 October 21, 2015. Mr. Craig moved to approve the minutes as presented, was seconded by Mr. Bowering and carried unanimously.
2015 BEST BUILDING AWARD NOMINATIONS
Mr. Showalter stated that he would suggest a ride through town so the members could see what projects might be nominated for the Best Building awards. Ms. Mulligan stated that she would send a draft of the Annual Report to the Commission which would give them a reminder of what projects took place in 2015. Mr. de Mooy stated that new houses or rehabilitations of a property could also be considered for an award.
PROPOSED TEXT CHANGE AMENDMENT – ROYAL FARMS STORE ON THE LANDS OF PARTNERS II OF MONTABELLO, LLC, 859 HIGH STREET
Mr. Kevin Shearon of DMS & Associates, Joe Stevens, Esquire of the Law offices of Stevens Palmer, LLC., Mr. Jeff Bainbridge of Royal Farms, and Mr. Matt Hogans, owner’s representative were present for the application.
Mr. de Mooy stated that this request was to amend the language in the C-3 Neighborhood Commercial District which currently limits the number of fueling stations to two (2) islands with two (2) pumps each for a total of four (4) pumps. He said that Royal Farms was located on a three (3) acre parcel and the proposed text amendment would allow six (6) fueling stations.
Mr. de Mooy stated that prior to comprehensive rezoning, the area where the pumps are proposed to be located was zoned C-1 General Commercial. There is no limit to the number of fueling stations in C-1 Zoning.
Mr. de Mooy stated that on page fifty-six (56) of the Zoning Ordinance, Section 170-43(C)8(C) states that “a maximum of two (2) service islands with two (2) fuel pumps are permitted”.
Mr. de Mooy read from Section 170-14 (changes and amendments generally), which states that text amendments will be initiated by Resolution of the Mayor and Council, by motion of the Planning Commission, or by petition of any property owner addressed to the Mayor and Council.
Mr. de Mooy stated that the attorney of record for Royal Farms submitted a request to the Mayor and Council for a text amendment and the Mayor and Council forwarded that request to the Planning Commission for review. It was up to the Planning Commission to send a recommendation to the Mayor and Council within sixty (60) days of the first meeting date of the Commission after the request was received. The Planning Commission could opt to hold a public hearing, but the Mayor and Council has to hold a public hearing before approving a proposed change or amendment.
Mr. de Mooy stated that he thought it was helpful to see the concept plan in order to evaluate the proposed text amendment and evaluate whether permitting additional pumps supports the general aims of the zoning district and the Comprehensive Plan, as it addresses gateways in town in terms of design and other factors that should be taken into consideration. He stressed, however, that this meeting was not to evaluate the concept plan, which would be taken up at future meeting.
Mr. Shearon showed a conceptual drawing for the layout of the property. He said that this was two (2) parcels that would be combined for a little over 3 acres. He said that the back of the property was adjacent to the Gateway Park and Gilchrest Rail Trail. He thought it was better to combine six (6) pumps under one (1) canopy, providing an open space near the gateway entrance from Rock Hall. Sidewalk connections would be made from the traffic circle to the store and there would be a pedestrian connection to the Rail Trail. There would be a bicycle rack and an air pump for cyclists.
Mr. Showalter stated that the canopy width appears to be the size of the Royal Farms building. Mr. Shearon stated that it was approximately as wide as the building, but because it was open it would not appear as large because the canopy is open and elevated.
Mr. Fordi asked if there was a minimum lot size in C-3. Mr. de Mooy stated that C-3 was not tied to a size limit, noting that because these were two (2) parcels tied together as one (1) this site was unique. Mr. Shearon agreed, noting that the draft language for the amendment limited the additional pumps to parcels two (2) acres or larger in size. He said that in the C-3 District most properties that fit the criteria are already developed. Other sites were the former Brooks Mill, property to the back of the Rails-to-Trails, and property on Washington Avenue where LabCorp and other doctor offices were located.
Mr. Stevens stated that in limiting the parcel size to at least a two (2) acre minimum and by not making the amendment by right it would limit requests.
Mr. Fordi asked if the applicant could simply ask for a variance, rather than a text change amendment. Mr. Stevens stated that in order to obtain a variance or special exception, the criteria required was quite difficult, and the text amendment was more achievable.
Mr. de Mooy stated that limiting the fueling station to three (3) islands with two (2) fuel pumps would be the simplest approach from a text amendment standpoint. He said given the minimum lot size requirement, he was positively inclined to recommend a zoning text amendment. He said that the way these pumps were positioned in the concept plan, there was plenty of room for screening with landscaping, including the gateway from Rock Hall, and that this fulfilled an important requirement of the Comprehensive Plan.
Mr. Showalter asked if there was a local Royal Farms that had three (3) islands with six (6) total pumps in the area that the Commission where the Commission could review photos. Mr. Bainbridge stated that there were several stores with that configuration, also stores with eight (8) or more, but he did not have photos with him. Mr. Bainbridge stated that a typical store had the pumps in front of the store and it was not often that they were moved to the side.
Mr. de Mooy asked what would happen if the amendment was not granted and would Royal Farms consider a convenience store with four (4) pumps. Mr. Bainbridge stated that any less than six (6) pumps became uneconomical for Royal Farms, adding that if there were only four (4) dispensers he thought the site would be queued up.
Mr. Bowering asked what amount of traffic the store anticipated. Mr. Bainbridge stated that he did not expect additional traffic, and that their stores rely on traffic that was already on the road.
Mr. Fordi moved for a positive recommendation to the Mayor and Council for the requested zoning text amendment for the C-3 District as discussed, was seconded by Mr. Craig and carried unanimously (4-0).
Mr. de Mooy stated that there was at least one request for rezoning and said if the Planning Commission was going to consider the request, public notice should be given so that additional property owners can submit their requests for rezoning. He said by law it had to be done every 5 years and the last rezoning was in February 2012. He suggested further discussing this issue at the January 2016 meeting.
There being no further business, Mr. Fordi moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:07 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Bowering and carried unanimously.
Submitted by: Approved by:
Jennifer Mulligan Jeffrey Grotsky