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Property owners not in mood to compromise

Downtown South Boston property and business owners, not happy with the possibility of their properties being rezoned from manufacturing to business, in large part were still unhappy after hearing a summary of options presented them during Monday’s town council work session.

Options presented during the meeting included courses of action in order to move forward with the new zoning ordinance and map, but that presentation was met with even more questions.

One option included passage of the proposed zoning ordinance and map as recommended by town planners.  Under that option, property owners with non-conforming uses and plans to more intensely develop their parcels would be allowed to
apply to conditionally zone their properties for expansion/development at the appropriate time in the future.

Another option would have town council and planners rewrite the Dan River (DR) and B-2 ordinance sections to allow selected light industrial uses as uses permitted by Special Use Permit.

A third option would allow individual parcels be rezoned to allow all M-1 uses as requested by the property owners and leave other properties zoned B-2.

Property owners who choose that option would run the risk of being challenged for “spot zoning,” as a small number of parcels would differ from the B-2 established pattern and might be construed to solely serve the private interests of the landowners, according to the presentation.

The new ordinance and map downsize a couple of areas by changing zoning of the property from B-2 to DR District and from M-1 to B-2, and that is the issue, according to the PowerPoint presentation.

The proposed ordinance and map change the density of permitted business uses to those closely related to existing business uses and avoiding non-residential uses.

The area zoned M-1 Industrial south of Seymour Drive to the railroad tracks from Broad Street to Riley Avenue has been rezoned to a more flexible B-2 District that incorporates residential properties as permitted uses.

A preferred option, according to town staff and planners, would be staying with the planning commission’s recommendation to adopt the proposed zoning ordinance and map, with property owners with non-conforming uses able to apply to conditionally rezone their parcels to a more extensive use.

Property owners could individually petition the planning commission and town council to consider rezoning their parcels to a more intense use in those situations where their parcels are adjacent to a more intense use.

Council is advertising a public hearing to reconsider the planning commission’s Dec. 9 recommendation at its next council meeting on Feb. 10.

Property owners present at Monday’s meeting seemed unimpressed with their options, including Morgan Miller, who continues to lobby for his parcels remaining under M-1 zoning 

“A lot of it is as simple as a magic marker,” said Miller noting the color-coded proposed zoning map.

“Some things stay ‘gray’, we just want a few more things to stay ‘gray’.

“I think for some of us tonight, we’re not totally understanding what’s happening here.  We thought you would let us sit down and talk.”

David Myers told council he had attended council and planning commission meetings but wanted more specific answers to his concerns.

“I want to sit down with somebody, ask some questions and get some answers,” said Myers.

Mayor Ed Owens assured Myers and Miller they would have an opportunity to sit down with Zoning Administrator Ted Daniel and Planning Commission Chairman George Leonard before the public hearing and air their concerns about the proposed ordinance or “tweaking it,” as Miller put it.

Vice-Mayor Coleman Speece, who said he has spent a great deal of time studying the issue, noted “there is no perfect solution.”

We have gone through this thing from A-Z, looked at I don’t know how many alternatives,” said Speece.

“After all these hours spent, I’ve come to the conclusion there’s not a perfect solution to this thing.

“We can’t discard our comprehensive plan, we’re obligated to do that legally, and as part of that we have to put together a sensible zoning process toward that comprehensive plan.

“It came out of extensive discussions and work, and we put a lot of effort into it.”

Developer John Cannon, who is looking to develop land along the Dan River for residential purposes, wants council and planners to “tweak” the proposed Dan River District to include a “multi-family” option.

The proposed Dan River District currently does not list “multi-family” as a permitted use.

Cannon told council he was “fine with everything you’re doing as long as you leave that property multi-family.”

Cannon had a quick response when Speece reminded him he would have the option for conditional zoning should the Dan River District not include multi-family as a permitted use. 

“That will not happen, ever, all I’m saying, the only thing I’m asking about the DR (Dan River District) is to leave the multi family in place, and I’m satisfied...or, does somebody want to compensate me and buy my property?” Cannon asked.