BTC gives Red Gate reprieve on zoning

BLYTHEWOOD – The rezoning of the Red Gate Farms property, a large undeveloped parcel near the heart of town, will go back to the planning commission Monday night after a convoluted vote by the Blythewood Town Council.

The reason was to allow time for the new owners of the property, who purchased it in June, to come up with a plan and request zoning consistent with their plans to develop it.

The land, roughly 143 acres on Blythewood Road, between Muller and Syrup Mill roads, is currently designated as a PD (Planned Development) district, a site-specific zoning designation for mixed-use developments.

It’s been that way for more than a decade after a developer had designed a mixed-use project to include 232 houses, 300 apartment units, and 36 acres of commercial development, but never moved forward with construction.

Town officials noted during the meeting that any development other than the original mixed-use plan would require rezoning.

At its Sept. 3 meeting, the Blythewood Planning Commission voted to recommend rezoning of the property to D-1, a zoning designation for large parcels on the fringe of urban growth where the character of development has not yet been determined.

The commission was acting on a town ordinance that requires rezoning to be initiated when projects with PD zoning do not move forward after two years. The Town officials did not appear to be aware at that time that the property, which was owned by Arthur State Bank for several years, had recently changed hands.

“A rezoning of this property has been discussed ad nauseum over the past 2-3 years,” said Town Council Member Donald Brock, a former planning commission chairman who recalled some of the meetings leading up to the commission’s recent recommendation.

During a public hearing on the rezoning at Monday’s town council meeting, town resident Marshall Dinkins spoke on behalf of the property owners, his parents, Byron and Susan Dinkins, asking that council defer the vote for 90 days to allow them to decide how they wanted to develop the property.

Dinkins suggested the family might want to rezone the frontage along Blythewood Road as commercial and the rear of the property D-1.

Town Councilman Eddie Baughman expressed support for the Dinkins family’s request, citing their history as longtime residents of Blythewood.

“I think the Dinkins have always been fine businesspeople in this town, always cared about this town,” Baughman said. “I think we need to work with them.”

Mayor Bryan Franklin agreed with Baughman.

Brock argued that, nonetheless, rezoning to D-1 would put the property in an appropriate holding pattern and establish a “clean slate” upon which to make a plan for rezoning. This, he said, would be preferable to leaving a long-defunct mixed-use development plan sitting on the books.

He assured the Dinkins family that, despite the coincidental timing, the rezoning was not personal – and the intent of an approval of D-1 was for them to come back before the planning commission with a fresh plan and a fresh zoning request of their town.

Town administrator interjected that if the Town voted to rezone the property to D-1 as recommended by the Commission, that it would take a  couple of for a second reading and then for the Dinkins to come back to the planning commission for a new zoning designation. If they denied the recommendation to rezone to D-1, the family could apply to the commission next month (or the next) for the zoning they want and move on, then for a decision of the town council, saving them two to three months of time to be rezoned.

Mayor Bryan Franklin, noting Cook’s timeline involved with rezoning to D-1, agreed that it would delay the opportunity for the Dinkins family to work with the planning commission, requiring them to wait months through the process before their work could begin.

“What we’re talking about is saving time,” he said, insisting that rezoning to D-1 is not necessary to create a “clean slate,” which can instead be accomplished with a rezoning request initiated by the Dinkins family based on how they’d like to develop the land.

The council voted 4-1 to deny the rezoning recommended by the planning commission, indicating an expectation that the Dinkins family would work with the planning commission on a new rezoning request. Brock voted against.