Industrial Buffer Could Shrink

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Planner Michael Criss suggested to the Planning Commission on Tuesday evening a number of changes to the Town’s Landscape & Tree Preservation ordinance. While most of Criss’s suggestions were for technical clarifications or modifications to help the ordinance comply with the new Town Center District, others were more substantive, such as reducing the buffer between the Light Industrial Research Park (LIRP) zoning district and Rural or Residential zoning districts from 200 feet to perhaps as little as 20 feet, which is the buffer requirement between most of the Town’s Industrial and Commercial districts.

As it is written, the ordinance governing buffer space between an LIRP zoning district and Rural and Residential zoning districts also calls for the first 20 feet from the residential zoning district line to be densely planted with evergreens, which will reach a height of not less than 20 feet at maturity to create an opaque screen. The current planting requirement for the remaining 180 feet consist of intermittent plantings of deciduous and evergreen trees, which would reach a height of no less than 40 feet at maturity. Town Administrator John Perry nodded, agreeing that he thought these current buffering requirements on LIRP zoned districts were excessive and called on the Planning Commissioners to consider reducing them.

These buffer requirements were established several years ago as a result of neighborhoods in the town objecting to an LIRP district being zoned in proximity to their homes. In 2003, the Ballow Administration had established LIRP zoning on almost 900 acres adjacent to Ashley Oaks. As a result of input from homeowners in the Ashley Oaks neighborhood and others in the town, the next administration under Mayor Pete Amoth changed the zoning of the 900 acres from LIRP to D-1 (Development.)

Perry told the Commissioners that, currently, the only property zoned LIRP is the Google property on Highway 21 near the intersection of Rimer Pond Road. However, Perry recently presented information for consideration by the Commission regarding the possibility of rezoning the 900 acres formerly zoned LIRP to a zoning designation that would accommodate Advanced Manufacturing, which consist primarily of high tech manufacturing.

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7.

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