At the Chestertown Council meeting Monday, Nov. 19, the mayor and council approved a change in the town’s zoning ordinance as it applies to the recently annexed properties in the Dixon Valve business park being developed at the north end of town.
In a public hearing on the new zoning, before the regular council meeting, Town Manager Bill Ingersoll summarized the ordinance. He said that when the tract was annexed, the owners requested, and the town agreed to provide, a “mixed-use” zoning. That would be equivalent to the “crossroads commercial” designation the property had when it was still under Kent County jurisdiction. He said the town’s solution was to meld the LI2 “light industrial” zoning with C3 zoning, a “neighborhood commercial” designation the town developed in 2010.
Ingersoll said the changes to the ordinance had been vetted by the town planning commission and by the property owner and both were satisfied it would accomplish what they wanted for the tract. The new zoning allows the planning commission a degree of flexibility in determining appropriate setbacks for buildings. Convenience stores and drive-through businesses and ground floor residential uses would not be allowed in the industrial area of the property.
The ordinance also increases the permitted size of signs in the new zone, to 20 square feet from the 4 square foot standard in the downtown business area where residential and business uses are very close to one another. Ingersoll said the adjustment is in recognition that the setbacks in the business park may enough greater that the larger size is necessary for signs to be legible from the street.
Ingersoll said the model for mixed use is the traditional neighborhood where residences, churches, and neighborhood stores were mingled, as they were in historic eras. The owners would be allowed to have a gymnasium, smaller stores, restaurants, and other businesses catering to residents or employees in the Dixon Valve offices and warehouse nearby. “It allows a variety of uses in an intimate setting,” he said in summary of the “mixed-use” designation.
Councilman Marty Stetson said that the zoning essentially was what the developers had presented when they requested annexation of the property.
Jim Gatto, the former chairman of the planning commission, spoke from the audience. He asked whether the entire area would be zoned for mixed-use or if a portion along Scheeler Road to the south, which KRM has said it would use for an apartment complex, would have a separate zoning. Ingersoll said it would be two zones: one designated “professional office” where the apartments will be, and the other more business-oriented. He said the “professional office” zone allows a significant residential element.
Gatto told the council that the town has needed a mixed-use zone for some time, describing it as “the way for the community to go.” He gave council members a draft revision to the zoning ordinance he had worked out when he was on the commission that spelled out some of the details of a mixed-use zone. He said among the characteristics he such a zone should include were walkability and conservation of open space. He suggested eliminating a requirement for specific lot sizes in favor of laying out percentages to be devoted to various uses. He spoke in favor of giving the developer added flexibility along with “incentives to invest in the site rather than just develop it.”
Ingersoll thanked Gatto for his expert commentary and said that his proposed changes should be looked at by the planning commission when it reviews the comprehensive plan and the zoning ordinance, as required by state law, in a couple of years’ time.
The council passed the ordinance, 06-2018, which amends the town’s zoning ordinance, by unanimous vote.
Also at the meeting, the council adopted an ordinance, 05-2018 authorizing the sale of two pieces of property that it declared surplus. One, at 328 Cannon Street, is 10×100 feet – an abandoned entrance to the town parking lot that sits behind the commercial buildings on the street. It is surrounded by a single neighbor and is too narrow to be buildable. The neighbor has offered to buy it for $5,000.
The other plot, 103 Flatland Road, is just over 1/2 acre at the corner of Flatland Road and High Street extended. Ingersoll said the town acquired it some time ago with the plan of converting it into a basketball court. However, with the completion of the nearby Gateway Park, there is no need for an additional court in the area. Ingersoll said at the Nov. 5 council meeting that the owners of the adjacent properties have indicated their interest in buying the lot, which crosses their access to Flatland Road.
Police Chief Adrian Baker, following his monthly departmental report, introduced Stacey Shockley, the department’s newest officer. He said she is a Kent County High School graduate who attended Salisbury University, graduating with a degree in psychology. For the past five years, she has been serving as a member of the university’s campus police. Her husband Collin Shockley, a deputy with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, held the Bible during the swearing-in by Mayor Chris Cerino.
Baker said that the department still has one opening to fill. He said there are a couple of candidates under consideration for the position.