TC tables Town Center zoning amendment

Due to a technicality, Council did not take the second and final vote on a hot button rezoning that would, if passed, dismantle key zoning ordinances put in place by a previous administration to create a more attractive streets cape in the Town Center District.

If adopted, Ordinance 2017.010 will relax the Town Center zoning district building placement and driveway regulations on properties fronting Blythewood Road east of I-77.

The current ordinance calls for new buildings to sit near the road with parking in the back. Drive through windows are not allowed in the front of fast food restaurants along with other restrictions designed to make the town more attractive.

Mayor J. Michael Ross and the Town’s economic development consultant, Ed Parler, have argued for the last several months that economic development is not coming to the town because of these restrictions.

Because the ordinance not only changes the zoning text map but the Comprehensive Plan as well, there was some question as to whether sufficient public notice had been given prior to the final vote. Council, therefore, postponed the vote until the September 25 meeting.

Still the fur flew during the public hearing on the issue when former Councilman Paul Moscati objected to the changes and later when Ross responded.

Moscati gave a hats off to Council and Town Administrator Gary Parker for innovatively pursuing sources of revenue for the Town to operate on.

“That being said, I do not believe in lowering our standards in an effort to lure a developer into Town to open a business on his terms. That’s not how this is supposed to work,” Moscati said. “These guidelines resulted during the development of the Master Plan a few years ago. Support was exhibited and Council put them in place.

“But the decision to pursue these changes being  voted on tonight came from the top down, not the bottom up as typical government by the people works,” Moscati said. “There was no groundswell movement to make these changes.”

After first reading by Council, the proposed amendment was sent to the Planning Commission where it was not recommended to move forward.

“The developer has apparently pushed enough and offered the Town enough to now pit Council against the citizens of the Town who supported these guidelines and the Planning Commission who is made up of citizens volunteering their time to do their best to make sure Blythewood remains special,” Moscati said.

“Your words are exactly on,” Ross responded. “This came from the top. This is something that I have been frustrated with and I have heard other community members say and also my economic development person that brings economic development to us. It just gets stalled and stalled and nothing comes, so we have nothing . Hopefully people have confidence in me and this council that we’ll either decide that that’s what’ll be best as to look at this little area that’s already developed as it is, that would just compliment it and it would be some of the same things, or it won’t, but thank you.”

Town Council will meet on Sept. 25.