The Colonial Beach Town Council will hold a public hearing on this amendment on November 15. at 6:00 p.m.
The Colonial Beach Planning Commission has carefully considered allowing exemptions to 'requirements for new construction to install curb, gutter and sidewalks' when there is no existing infrastructure to support it.
Currently when improving any undeveloped lot to construct homes or other buildings, town ordinances require curb, gutters and sidewalks to be constructed.
The Planning Commission recommended the following language be added to current ordinances to allow for special circumstances;
This requirement may only be waived by the Director of Public Works in direct consultation with the Director of Planning if pre-existing associated infrastructure does not support the instillation of curb, gutter and/or sidewalk. An engineer report may be required at the request of the Director of Public Works.
Note this exemption will not be allowed in the resort commercial district.
The planning commission voted 5 in favor with one member, Fletcher Lee abstaining.
Lee said, “I don't feel I am knowledgeable enough to vote yet.”
The recommendation will now go to the town council for a public hearing and vote.
Zoning Administrator Allyson Finchum, reported to the planning commission at the October 25 meeting, that the need for exemption was brought to the attention of council in August, when several applications for construction were being held up.
Finchum explained that there are several areas in Colonial Beach that are still undeveloped and lacking curb, gutters and sidewalks. The issue was that several applications had been submitted for development in these areas and the requirement to install curb, gutters and sidewalks was impractical in some instances.
When a home is being built in the middle of an undeveloped street which lacks curb, gutters and/or sidewalks, putting these features in the middle of a block with no attaching infrastructure would be costly and impractical and even may restrict the flow of drainage.
The council sent the matter to the Planning Commission for review and recommendations.
The requirement was found to be in both the zoning and subdivision ordinances for undeveloped lots. It is required for new construction to install curb, gutters and sidewalks in the following districts with no exceptions; R-1 (Residential Limited District), R-2 (General Residential District), Resort Commercial District, Commercial Residential District and is required in Section 5 zoning regulations “Design Standards”
Several builders and developers were concerned with the requirement where there is no existing infrastructure to support these additions.
Finchum said with the new language if developers caused any damage to existing curb, gutters or sidewalks they would still be required to repair that, but this will give Planning and Zoning some flexibility in both the zoning ordinance and the subdivision ordinance to apply this section.
Using the Term 'Associated' vs 'Adjacent'
Planning Commissioner, Eric Nelson said, “I think this language makes it more clear when the exemption will be applied” however he said he was still a little confused why the term associated was used instead of adjacent.
Finchum said adjacent could be argued and the word 'associated' gives the planning and zoning department flexibility.
Nelson said he felt many around the table agreed with him. He added, “We want to make any exemption as narrow as possible.”
Robin Schick felt the word 'adjacent' could actually give the developer more options for exemption. Schick raised concerns that the exemption does not call for an engineer's report. She feared that future Directors of Public Works may not necessarily have the engineering background needed to make an educated decision. Schick also said that leaving the decision to one entity was another concern.
Finchum suggested adding wording that would allow for the submission of an engineering report at the request of the Director of Public Works.
Schick agreed to that.
Chair Woman Maureen McCabe agreed with Schick that more than one entity should be involved in the decision of granting any exemption.
McCabe said, “I don't want one person to make the decision as it relates to the whole town.” McCabe added, “To me it is not a solitary decision.”
Finchum said adding another staff member to the decision making process is common in other areas and suggested that the language included a review by both the Director of Public Works and the Director of Planning.
Commissioner Bob Christiansen said he agreed that the word adjacent would be inappropriate.
Why The Commission Excluded The Resort Commercial District From Exemption
Christiansen had an added request. He said, “I understand the need for flexibility” however he felt that the exemption should be excluded in the Resort Commercial District.
The Resort Commercial District is located from Washington Ave to the Boardwalk and from Colonial Ave to Boundry Street.
Schick agreed that the exemption should not be given in the Resort Commercial District. Schick also felt that Commercial Residential should also be stricken from having an exemption, which includes the West side of Washington Ave and First Street.
Schick argued that now that there are several businesses located on the West end of First Street and the entire school system is located on First Street as well, exemptions should not be included in this area.
The Comprehensive Plan focuses on improving the business areas. Schick feels that eliminating the requirement could move the town away from, rather than towards, the goals of the Comprehensive Plan.
After discussions it was learned that there are many more areas that are included in the Commercial Residential area so the group decided the ordinance for Commercial Resort should include the exemption in case it is needed.
Vice Chair, Pamela Tolson worried that excluding the option, to have this exemption in the Resort Commercial District, may pose a hardship.
Tolsen asked, “You're absolutely sure that in the Commercial Resort area would never have any situations that would not present a need to have to wave this?”
Tolson warned, “There are never any absolutes.”
Zoning Administrator Allyson Finchum said if the exemption is not put in the ordinance for any one district the builder must install all three; curb, gutter and sidewalk.
Christiansen felt Tolsen's concern was valid but felt that exemptions could be sought after through an appeal process.
The Colonial Beach Town Council will now review the recommendation, advertise and hold a public hearing before voting. Once that is complete the ordinances will change to reflect the council's final decision.
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