Sno-Ball Rezoning Fails

BLYTHEWOOD (Dec. 1, 2016) – Rimer Pond Road residents and their neighbors live to fight (commercial zoning) again.

On Monday night, Council voted 5-0 in support of the residents who spoke out against a request by Pelican Sno-Balls for Multi-Neighborhood Commercial zoning (MC) at 10711 Wilson Blvd., at the entrance to Rimer Pond Road.

The MC zoning designation would have allowed not only the ice treat store, but a myriad of other retail business uses, including convenience stores, beer and wine sales, apartment buildings and, under certain conditions, service stations. The property, which is surrounded by Rural (RU) zoning, is currently zoned for office use and was most recently occupied by the 3-G Windows and Doors office.

“We continue to show up here to speak out against commercial zoning in our neighborhood,” Rimer Pond Road resident Trey Hair said during citizen testimony regarding action items on the agenda. “The Town Hall has already stood up against Pelican locating in the Town Center based on its (franchise’s) brightly colored buildings. But more important to us is the zoning change. We would be left with commercial zoning where we never wanted it.”

David Whitner, who lives on Shoal Creek Road just off Rimer Pond Road, agreed.

“Keep it rural,” Whitner said. “That type of zoning is not something we want to see in our neighborhood.”

“We are opposed to this up-zoning near our road because it will progress and the up-zoning will rapidly be out of your hands,” Michael Watts told Council members.

Other residents, including those from Dawson’s Creek neighborhood which is located behind the property up for re-zoning, voiced similar opinions.

Pelican owner Brian Keller also addressed Council saying he owns Pelican stores in Elgin and Spring Valley and that both are extremely popular. While Keller he said he had talked to a lot of people on Rimer Pond Road who were in favor of his business opening in the area, he lamented that none of those residents showed up at the meeting.

While Keller acknowledged that a main objection from the Board of Architectural Review, Town Hall and neighbors in the area of the property up for re-zoning, had to do with the bright blue, purple and pink colors used by the Pelican franchise on its buildings and signs, he told Council that he was 100 percent sure the franchise would agree to tone the colors down if he could first get the MC zoning passed.

Councilman Eddie Baughman brought the focus back to zoning, pointing out that MC zoning allows apartment buildings like the ones going up in Blythewood.

“With MC zoning, we could be allowing an apartment building to go up right outside of the town,” he said.

Councilman Tom Utroska agreed.

“When you change the zoning,” Utroska said, “you can’t just change it right back.”

While Councilman Larry Griffin, a proponent of growth, suggested that if there had never been any zoning changes in the town, residents might not have some of the things they enjoy today, he said he was torn on how to cast his vote.

“How much and where do we want that growth to go and what do we want it to look like is the real question,” Griffin asked.

“I think you’ve hit it right on the head,” Mayor J. Michael Ross said to Griffin. “As I look at it, it’s not, ‘Do we want a Pelican Sno-Balls store?’ It’s a zoning map and zoning district classification that would allow this type of business, but it would also allow a lot of others. So are we ready to do that down that close to Rimer Pond Road? So, when I cast my vote, it’s not against Pelican Sno-Balls, but are we ready to start what might be an entire commercial development down on Highway 21 right in front of the entrance to Rimer Pond Road?”

Ross also said he was sorry that the Town Center District would not accommodate the Pelican store, “but we have regulations as to what we want (the town) to look like,” he added.

Turning to Griffin, Ross said, “I think you said exactly what we are voting on – whether or not we will open this up to allow this type of business or other businesses like this business in that area.”

On a verbal roll call, Council members unanimously rejected the MC zoning request.

Historic Designation of Academy

Council voted 4-1 to designate the interiors of Blythewood Academy’s auditorium and gymnasium as historic features of those already designated historic structures. Council also recommended changing the classification of both buildings from Class II to Class I structures. The change requires the building’s owner (Richland 2 School District) to get prior approval from the Town’s Board of Architectural Review before making any changes to the buildings.

Utroska was the lone dissenting vote, suggesting that it might be inappropriate for the Town to control what could be done with the interior of the building.

Jack Carter, Director of Operations for Richland 2, addressed Council to confirm that the District is fine with the changes.

YMCA Use of Doko Park

Council unanimously approved an ordinance granting a license to the YMCA for the use of the soccer fields in Doko Meadows during certain hours of certain days with the specification that the regular $15 hourly rate would be prorated for additional hours used.

Amphitheater Bid Approval
Unanimous approval was given to accept the low base bid by AOS Contractors ($415,893) to construct an amphitheater stage, pavilion structure and concrete pad in front of the stage. While Digging Deep Construction submitted the lowest bid for both the base bid and the alternates (installation of interior radial sidewalks that connect to the road and handicap parking areas), Utroska suggested that the Town stay within their budget for now and go with the work that could be completed with the base bid.

Chamber Holiday Party Sponsorship

Council voted 4-1 to spend $400 to sponsor a table (6 tickets) for the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce’s holiday party on Dec. 9. Utroska voted against.

A-TAX Approvals

Council voted unanimously in favor of the A-Tax Committee’s decision to approve $6,496 for the Town’s Christmas Parade, which is being organized this year by volunteers from the Transfiguration Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus, and $20,000 for the Diamond Invitation Baseball Tournament in March.