PC recommends commercial zoning

Council’s Votes Override Staff Recommendation

BLYTHEWOOD – Blythewood Planning Commission disregarded Town Administrator Brian Cook’s recommendation to vote against a request to rezone a Rural (RU) zoned property on Wilson Boulevard for commercial use. The commission voted unanimously Monday evening to recommend that town council rezone the property to a commercial zoning designation – Multi-Neighborhood Office (MO) District.

The property in question, located at 10715 Wilson Blvd. is zoned RU, with Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zoning on one side, MO zoning on the other side and RU zoning to the north, the rear and across Wilson Boulevard to the east, according to Cook. The property backs up to a neighborhood of residential properties, all zoned RU.

Cook explained that the future land use map in Blythewood’s Comprehensive Plan currently designates the property for rural residential use.

“The idea for a rezoning in Blythewood is to discourage urban sprawl down our corridors that enter our Town of Blythewood. We want to encourage commercial zoning in pockets [in designated areas] and discourage sprawl along roadways,” Cook said.

“Based on that and where the property is located, staff would not recommend the rezoning request at this time,” Cook said. “The potential would be to piggyback down the corridor with the same [commercial] zoning.”

Applicant Taricka Taylor appeared virtually before the commission Monday evening to request rezoning of the property, which she owns, to MO, telling commissioners that at least five properties on either side of her property are all currently zoned commercial – “the day care, Dan Creed’s, the property I own, the property I rent now and the horse farm.”

While only two properties in that segment of properties she referred to are zoned commercial – one is zoned Neighborhood Commercial (NC) and one is zoned MO – commissioners chose Taylor’s interpretation of the zoning.

“It sounds like a reasonable request to me,” Commissioner Malcolm Gordge told his fellow commissioners. “I realize our intent is to avoid cluster development along our corridors into our town. But a business is already there [next to the property requesting MO zoning.] To me it seems perfectly in keeping with other businesses along there zoned for commercial use. I would favor granting the request on further down, there’s a little school enterprise and three businesses operating there.”

Commissioner Ed Kesser agreed.

“There’s a lot of commercial properties on that side of the road,” Kesser said. “I think it’s a great commercial site and should be rezoned. I recommend the property rezoning be approved.”

And with that, it was – unanimously – with no further discussion.

The two properties in that block that have actual commercial zoning designations are the one Taylor currently leases with MO zoning, and another property that has a more restrictive NC zoning. The horse farm and day care are zoned RU and are permitted in RU zoning.

Taylor said she currently operates an interior design business at the MO zoned property at 10711 Wilson Boulevard, but purchased the property next door for which she is requesting the commercial rezoning for her current business.

Asked by The Voice about the zoning requirements for Taylor’s business, Cook said MO zoning is a higher use zoning than Taylor’s current business would require. NC and NO zoning, he said, would accommodate her business as it is now.  Both NC and NO are more restrictive, allowing only light commercial uses and building footprints are restricted to 5,000 square feet in NO and up to 10,000 square feet for NC zoning under certain conditions. MO zoning jumps to medium commercial uses and up to 15,000 square foot buildings under certain conditions.

The property requested to be rezoned is in proximity to a residential neighborhood in the rear and around the corner from Rimer Pond Road, where residents have long fought against commercial zoning.

In March of 2015, as then chairman of the planning commission, Gordge, championed commercial zoning on a nearby parcel on Rimer Pond Road. In response to a request from an out-of-town owner for commercial rezoning of his Rimer Pond Road RU zoned property, Gordge, on behalf of the town, sent a letter that was obtained by The Voice. The letter read in part:  “The Mayor and I have discussed your desire to amend the zoning of the property in question from Rural to Commercial and we would like to help you if at all possible.”

Gordge went on to write that, “the staff at Town Hall and myself would welcome the opportunity to chat with you informally and under no obligation about your plans and how the Town might help.”

Gordge advised Warren that in order for the Town to help him he would need to annex the property into the Town. Gordge further stated that Warren could “feel free to write, call or e-mail me in confidence at any time.”

After a number of Rimer Pond Road residents opposed the rezoning request during a planning commission meeting, the issue did not come up again.

Because council’s next regular meeting falls on Memorial Day, the rezoning request will be heard by Town Council at 7 p.m., on Tuesday, May 26.