The Board of Appeals (BOA) hearing was never, ever about the organizations who were/are renting from Legion Post 36. It is about the Legion’s attempt to pass along their Critical Area Non-Conforming zoning status as part of their property sale before going through due process as to what may occur on that property, especially in light of the Legion’s diminished activities over the past 10 years. No one would know better about the lack of activity than the residents of the Chesmar community who have lived in complete harmony with the organization for over 60 years.
This is about Critical Area stewardship. Non-conforming land use laws were made for special cases and were not meant to last forever. That is why there are “sun setting” procedures to return a property back to its former use – Critical Area Residential. Herein lies the argument.
The Legion’s original plan was to sell the property by parceling lots. The lots did not perk, at least not enough to warrant a successful return on investment. The land is boggy and the Legion’s failing septic was approved for mound, only.
With parceling failure, a sign “For Sale – Commercial” appeared on the property misrepresenting the ‘product,’ i.e. property is zoned Critical Area Residential, not Commercial. Purchasing in Chesmar 22 years ago, our Hogans agent, current listing agent for Post 36, was asked about the Legion longevity: She replied, “it would always remain a Legion, nothing much happens there other than meetings and the occasional event.”
Still looking for a sale, Legion leadership rented the facility to several non-profit organizations in late 2019 and unmanaged traffic activity increased until COVID restrictions stopped all activities until the fall of 2020 when another non-profit entity rented the facility with intent to purchase. Online information published by the entity revealed plans for major changes to the landscape and facility utilization that had never before been experienced by the Chesmar homeowners. This becomes a case for “abandonment” as the Legion failed to use consistently the non-conforming uses originally permitted, maybe out of compliance for more than 10+ years. It is public knowledge only a handful of members maintain the grounds – a key reason the organization was seeking to disband.
The BOA should not have permitted the entity to present information during the hearing as this is clearly a land use case between the Community and Legion. By night three, BOA attorney Christopher Drummond made a statement in essence saying same. A bit late as the Legion needed passionate pleas from the non-profit group to make the appearance the Legion membership was carrying through consistently with their abandoned mission.