Council dismantling Perry’s Vision

BLYTHEWOOD – Addressing recent actions by Town Council to dismantle key zoning ordinances put in place by a previous administration to create a more walkable, attractive Town Center District, former Councilman Paul Moscati told Council Monday evening that he was disappointed they were not taking more time to make their decision on the amending the zoning ordinances.

“Why are you trying to do this so quickly? I was at a workshop last week when this was brought up,” Moscati told Council.

At that workshop, the Town’s Economic Development Consultant Ed Parler told Council that the regulations for a more walkable community were a hindrance to the economic growth of the town. Ross agreed saying that in the six years of his administration, only one new building had come to Blythewood Road. Town Planner Michael Criss added that the ordinances designed to promote walkability and aesthetics caused the current buldings to become out of compliance so that if the non-conforming buildings were more than 51 percent destroyed, they would have to be rebuilt to the ‘walkability’ set back and other specifications which could cause a hardship on them.

“When this plan (to create a more walkable community) was passed, we didn’t expect any current businesses to comply with the ordinance. It was passed for the new businesses coming to the town. You asked how you are going to afford to do this, but it was never that the town would pay for it. It was the developers coming in who would pay for it. We were just asking them to make changes in how they built, to start making this town look like something special,” Moscati said.

At issue are zoning stipulations envisioned and guide by Town Administrator John Perry, and put in place by a Town Council that included Moscati, to have new builds pulled closer to the street with parking in the rear of the buildings and mandatory second stories on new builds in certain areas. The current administration abolished the two-story requirement last year and passed first reading Monday evening to do away with the requirement to pull new builds closer to the front of the lot.

“We’ve always heard, ‘Blythewood is just a truck stop town.’ If you care about Blythewood, that should affect you. I hate hearing that. One of the reasons we came up with the Master Plan and guidelines was to try to make the town look special. Something that came through to us loud and clear then was, ‘We don’t want to look like Two Notch and Killian Road,’” Moscati told Council.

“If you decide to go ahead and make changes on this, I would ask that, at the very least, you involve the public. Make sure they understand what you’re trying to change. As a former Councilman who was for this [walkability ordinances], I think it is incumbent on me to help lead that change to let people understand. And if what you’re doing is what the people want, then, by golly, they’re the ones who should have the final say so. As we become more and more disengaged, we’re going to look back and say, ‘How did we get to where we are?’ The answer is – a little bit at a time.”

“Your point is well taken,” Councilman Tom Utroska told Moscati, “but as you well know, getting people to get involved is hard to do.”

“We knew that if we ever pulled that first building forward it would look like a snaggled tooth. But there’s got to be a first time,” Moscati said.

Ross defended Council’s move to amend Perry’s plans, saying that many businesses have not come to the town because of the walkability ordinances.

“It wasn’t all because of our zoning, but it had a lot to do with it,” Ross said. “We are what we are. But as far as economic development, we’re letting the town down. We need to be sure what the people want.

“This is first reading and because we are making changes, it will have to go to the Planning Commission, a public hearing and a second reading,” Ross said.

First reading passed 4-0. Councilman Larry Griffin was out of town.

Council also held a public hearing and first reading to downsize select parcels from R-5, R-8 and R-12 to Development District (D-1).

Town Administrator Gary Parker said this procedure would help reduce the residential density in Blythewood while maintaining the current zoning of existing or vested developments. The recommendations passed first reading unanimously.

Council also voted on the Accommodation Tax Committee’s recommendations, approving $10,000 for the BHS Tournament of Bands and $1,750 for the Chamber’s Battle of the Bands Eclipse event Bravo Blythewood withdrew its request for $34,000 for a concert in the park.