Wilson Blvd. rezoning denied

Applicant Is Expected To Bring New Commercial Rezoning Request

BLYTHEWOOD – After Blythewood Town Council discussed the merits and legalities of a controversial rezoning request Monday night, members voted unanimously on second and final reading to deny the request with the understanding that if the applicant choses to come back with a new, more restrictive commercial rezoning request, council would more favorably consider its passage.

The property owner, Terika Taylor, requested that her Rural (R) zoned property located at 10715 Wilson Boulevard be rezoned to a commercial zoning designation of Multi-Neighborhood Office (MO) zoning.

After the vote to deny, Mayor Bryan Franklin instructed Town Administrator Brian Cook to research zoning surrounding the property to get a better picture of the history of prior rezonings.

Cook, however, told The Voice on Tuesday that he doesn’t expect the research to turn up anything that would significantly impact a new zoning request Taylor might bring to council.

When the rezoning initially came before the Blythewood Planning Commission on May 4, 2020, commissioners disregarded Cook’s recommendation to vote against rezoning the property for commercial use. While Cook explained that the future land use map in Blythewood’s Comprehensive Plan currently designates the property for rural residential use, the commission pushed back, voting unanimously to recommend MO commercial zoning.

“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. “There is too much potential that the same commercial zoning would piggyback down the road.”

Taylor said she currently operates an interior design business next door on a property that is one of only two commercially zoned properties on that section of Wilson Boulevard. The other is a property zoned Neighborhood Commercial (NC).  The surrounding properties are all zoned Rural, and the property backs up to Beskid Court, a residential neighborhood zoned Rural.

“[Commercial zoning] 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 door.] I would favor granting the request.”

Commissioner Ed Kesser agreed.

“There are 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.”

The recommendation was sent to Council for the first of two votes. When the first vote was taken at the May 26 council meeting, Councilman Sloan Griffin made a motion to approve the rezoning. After a long pause failed to produce a second, Councilman Larry Griffin seconded it. Without discussion, Franklin joined the Griffins in a 3 – 2 vote for the commercial rezoning.  Councilmen Eddie Baughman and Donald Brock voted against.

“Approving this request would be a mistake,” Councilman Brock warned Monday evening prior to the vote.  “Other than two parcels, everything around it is zoned Rural. Both the planning commission and the town council have previously denied commercial zoning on a nearby parcel. I don’t think Multi-Neighborhood commercial is appropriate for this parcel. It encourages urban sprawl with businesses popping up further outside the town center which is something I thought we wanted to limit.”

Cobblestone resident Tom Utroska, addressing council, said town ordinance 155.030 states that no amendment shall be initiated which would create a new zoning district with an area of less than two acres.

Town Attorney Jim Meggs read another section of the same ordinance, however that stated, “the minimum (two acres) does not apply to the extension of an existing district…”

Taylor asked, after the denial, if she could request the rezoning as an extension of the MO-zoned property where her office currently sits or of the NC-zoned property on the other side of the property she is seeking rezoning for. Cook agreed that she could.

If she does re-apply to go back through the rezoning process, the request would go before the planning commission on July 6 for a new recommendation to council. Sloan Griffin added that the Town might waive her application fee if she re-applies.

Down The Road

Besides being in proximity to a residential neighborhood in the rear, the property is around the corner from Rimer Pond Road, where residents have long fought against commercial zoning.

Prior to voting for commercial rezoning for the Wilson Boulevard property, Planning Commissioner Gordge, in March of 2015, also championed commercial zoning on a nearby parcel on Rimer Pond Road. In response to a commercial rezoning inquiry from an out-of-town property owner, Gordge, on behalf of the town, sent a letter to the property owner that was subsequently obtained by The Voice through a Freedom of Information request. In that letter, Gordge wrote, “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 the property owner that in order for the Town to help him he would need to annex the property into the Town. Gordge further stated that he 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 was dropped.