March 10, 2015 Minutes
The Board of Appeals held its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room of Charles County Government Building, La Plata, Maryland.
The following were present:
- Brendan Moon, Vice Chairman
- Shannon Houston-Smack
- James Martin
- Melissa Cox, Alternate
- Matthew Clagett, Associate County Attorney
- Steven Ball, Director of Planning
- Kirby Blass, Planning Staff
- Carrol Everett, Clerk
The Vice Chairman called the meeting to order at 7.03 PM and stated there was a quorum to proceed. Lynn Green and Sean Johnston were absent.
The Vice Chairman announced the process by which all Board of Appeals hearings are to be conducted.
The Vice Chairman announced that anyone wishing to make a statement pertinent to the operations of the Board can do so at this time, excluding the items on tonight's agenda.
The Vice Chairman thanked former Chairman, Frederick Mower, for his many years of service on the Board and to the community.
The Vice Chairman welcomed two new members: James Martin and Melissa Cox
7:05 PM, Public Hearing: Docket #1341 – K. Hovanian Homes of MD, for a variance to Charles County Zoning Codes, Core Mixed Uses, as provided in Article VI, Section 297-95 and Article XXV, Section 297-416.
Mr. Clagett stated there was substantial compliance with the notification requirements.
Kirby Blass, Planner, presented a brief summary of the case using a location, zoning and vicinity map for reference as follows:
- Property size: 6.6 acres of undeveloped land, designated as Parcel 511, Grid 23, Tax Map 5.
- Location: off of Matthews Road in Bryans Road
- Zoning: Core Employment Residential (CER) Zone
- Property is surrounded by the Bryans Road shopping center and the Southampton and North Indian Head Estates communities on the western side of Matthews Road
- Variance requested: to reduce the requirement within the CER Zone from a 50/50 commercial/residential development ratio, to a 35/65 ratio.
- Variance reduces the commercial ratio by 15% and increases the residential ratio by 15%.
- Staff recommends 3 conditions of approval.
The Applicant provided a conceptual layout (marked as Exhibit #5) illustrating how the property could be developed in the future if the variance was approved.
The Vice Chairman had questions regarding the 50/50 requirement.
Mark Mudd, Esquire, represented the Applicant.
The Vice Chairman swore in the following witnesses for the Applicant:
- Jeff Smith - Bowman Consulting Group, Annapolis, MD
- Mike Irons - Vice President, Land Development for Hovnanian Homes of MD
Referring to Exhibit 5, Mr. Smith described the dimensions of the property as it relates to development constraints, siting exceptional narrowness and existing public utility easements.
Referring to Exhibit 5, Mr. Smith also described the neighboring uses and intense development of the area and how they propose to transition the property from residential to commercial.
Mr. Irons described what type of commercial users he foresees for this property; i.e., small retail stores. He noted that commercial development needs road frontage which is lacking.
Mr. Mudd clarified that the Applicant is not asking to vacate 100% of the commercial but rather a minor 15% reduction. The Applicant’s intent is to continue the transition from residential to commercial and to focus on avoiding any conflict with existing residential properties.
Mr. Smith stated that this is not a self-created issue. Since 1995, the 6-acre parcel existed entirely as commercial when it was purchased by the Applicant. In 2005, the transitional zoning for mixed uses was established.
Mr. Mudd stated that the Applicant agrees with the findings and conditions of approval in the Staff Report.
Questions from Mr. Martin included the following: Is there a chance of expanding or reducing the number of units of townhomes? Do you plan on garages or carports in the driveway of the townhomes? What is the purpose of the pathway shown on the plan? What are the parking requirements? Have you had any concerns from single family homeowners regarding depreciation, traffic? Did you object to the new CER Zoning?
Mr. Mudd followed up by clarifying the density question.
The Vice Chairman swore in the following witnesses from the audience:
- Patricia Givens, 6670 Bucknell Circle, Bryans Road, MD
- Michael Trent, Sr., 6671 Bucknell Road, Bryans Road, MD
- Bonnie Bick, 7601 Oxon Hill Road, Oxon Hill, MD
- Ulyses Davis, President Southampton Homeowners Association
2345 Southampton Drive, Bryans Road
The witnesses concerns regarded: overcrowding of schools due to too much residential development, parking issues, trespassing from the proposed pathway/trail onto private properties, grading & flooding issues, and truck traffic from commercial development.
Mr. Mudd responded to the concerns of the witnesses.
Mr. Mudd cited that the issue for development of the property is exceptional narrowness. The Applicant is asking for a 65/35 residential/commercial development ratio in lieu of the 50/50 residential/commercial development ratio established in 2005.
Mr. Mudd stated that the transition plan proposed for the property is feasible and asked the Board to grant the variance request.
The Vice Chairman asked if it is up to the Board to determine whether the nature of the property is causing a hardship that would make it unfair for the Applicant to have to restrict his residential to only 50%.
Mr. Ball interjected that the trail connection shown on the plan is a result of discussions between the Applicant and Staff; however, it is only a concept idea and may not be feasible. He added that part of the idea of mixed residential/commercial use areas is so that residents are able to walk to nearby places of business.
Ms. Smack asked for clarification from Staff that there is only way in and one way out proposed. She asked why there was only one concept plan available for 42 townhomes and 4 commercial buildings and suggested that more than one plan would have given a better idea.
Ms. Cox asked if the land was purchased in one parcel or in multiple pieces.
Mr. Ball stated that from a marketing standpoint, the Applicant feels that a 50/50 residential/commercial development ratio requirement would not work.
The Vice Chairman commented that he feels some unique and peculiar conditions to the property do exist. However, he is not persuaded that it creates an unwarranted hardship that would keep the Applicant from developing the property in a manner that is consistent with the zoning. He is inclined not to approve the request.
Ms. Smack commented that she is not clear whether the Applicant has shown they will be deprived of their rights to develop their own property, a right which other property owners in the neighborhood are entitled and have exercised.
Mr. Mudd addressed the comments made by Ms. Smack.
Mr. Ball stated that this is a relatively new zoning district and in a sense is somewhat of a test case. He does not believe there is another project like this that has been developed in this area where you have commercial and residential integrated as part of the Bryans Road Sub-Area Plan.
The Vice Chairman expressed concern about creating some expectation that if the lot has a small amount of frontage, it can be developed residential. The intent of the Zoning Ordinance, as he sees it, is predominantly commercial with some mix of residential as opposed to a 50/50 transition.
Mr. Blass read the definition of the CER Zone from the Zoning Ordinance.
Mr. Irons referred to “economic and social vitality” as part of the CER definition. He asked if you own a small neighborhood commercial business such as a dry cleaner or an ice cream shop, would you want to locate your business or store in the additional 15% that is far removed from an arterial road. He stated that the answer is “no” and that is the hardship they are creating.
Mr. Martin expressed concern that if they grant a 65/35 development ration on this parcel, they would be setting a precedent. He does not see the need to go to 65% residential.
Actions by the Board
A MOTION was made by Mr. Martin, seconded by Ms. Smack, to deny the variance request for Docket #1341. All voted in favor of the MOTION, with the exception of Ms. Cox, who opposed the MOTION, and the MOTION to deny passed.
The meeting adjourned at 8:30 PM.