May 8, 2012
The Board of Appeals held its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in the Government Building Meeting Room of the Charles County Government Building, La Plata, Maryland.
The following were present:
Frederick Mower, Chairman
Luke Hannah, Vice Chairman
Jean Schappet, Member
Natalie McKinney, Member
Brendan Moon, Member
Matthew Clagett, Associate County Attorney
Steven Ball, Planning Director
Peter Aluotto, PGM Department Director
Amy Blessinger, Planning
Kirby Blass, Planning
Carrol Everett, Clerk
The Chairman called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m. and stated there was a quorum. The Alternate was not present.
The Chairman announced the process by which all Board of Appeals hearings are to be conducted.
7:04 PM, Public Hearing: Docket #1287 – Café Rio, c/o Kerley Signs, Inc., for a commercial variance to increase the allowable square footage for signs, as provided in Article XIX, Section 297-324 and Article XXV, Section 297-416 of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance.
Nancy Slepicka, Esquire, represented the Applicant. The Applicant has requested a continuance to June 26, 2012 due to their receiving a negative Staff Report. Ms. Slepicka remarked that as she was just recently hired by the Applicant, she will need time to review the case.
Actions by the Board
A MOTION was made by the Vice Chairman, seconded by Ms. Schappet, to approve a continuance to June 26, 2012. With all voting in favor, the MOTION passed.
7:12 PM, Public Hearing: Docket #1286 – Toyota of Waldorf, for an expansion of a non-conforming use, as provided in Article XXV, Section 297-418 and Article XXVIII, Section 297-465 of the Charles County Zoning Ordinance.
Mr. Claggett stated there was substantial compliance with the notification requirements.
Mr. Blass, Planning Staff, gave a summary of the request using location, zoning and aerial maps. He presented the following timeline of events:
•1979 – Mr. Al Roys began operation of a full service automobile dealership on the subject property.
•1999 – Construction was completed on the Toyota of Waldorf dealership building.
•1999 – April 23, 2010 Toyota of Waldorf underwent numerous enlargements and upgrades.
•April 23, 2010 – The subject property was re-zoned from CC (Community Commercial) to AUC (Acton Urban Center) making the Use Non-Conforming.
•September 13, 2011 – The Charles County Board of Appeals granted a 1,020 square foot Expansion to the Non-Conforming Use via Docket #1272.
•October 24, 2011 – Toyota of Waldorf applied for a Site Development Plan (SDP #11-0039) for the 1,020 square foot work to be performed.
•November 25, 2011 – A Plat of Consolidation was recorded which expanded the size of the subject property from 4,874 acres (the acreage size at the time of Docket #1272 approval) to 8.048 acres illustrated as Lot 1. The Final Plat (XNL #11-0042) consolidated Parcels 231, 217, 380, and 541 into a singular Parcel known as Lot 1.
•February 22, 2012 – Toyota of Waldorf submitted a second Non-Conforming Use Expansion for the construction of a new 23,000 square foot automobile body shop.
Mr. Blass stated that Staff cannot support the request based on incompatibility with the goals and objectives of the future growth of the Acton Urban Center (AUC) Zone and future development of the downtown Waldorf area.
Ms. Blessinger, Planning Staff, stated that Community Planning has reviewed the proposal and cannot support the Applicant’s request for the following reasons:
•The new AUC Zone requires commercial buildings be a minimum of three stories or higher.
•Automotive uses such as auto body shops do not fit in with the urban landscape.
•Top priority for the County Commissioners is a light rail transit system for the downtown Waldorf area. Proposed Toyota expansion is located within County designated transit zone. Higher density is needed to support light rail.
•As an option, there are other areas for auto body shops.
Mr. Aluotto, PGM Department Director, provided testimony in support of the downtown Waldorf Vision Plan approved by the Planning Commission and adopted by the County Commissioners.
The Chairman asked whether a non-conforming use has the right to expand up to 50%.
Mr. Ball addressed his question. The code allows for one to apply but does not guarantee an approval. The criteria for expansion must be met and compatibility is part of that criteria.
Mr. Ball stated there are several ongoing studies within the Waldorf area in conjunction with the redevelopment effort. The light rail transit alignment was approved last year and set. An environmental study will be funded in the near future. An infrastructure analysis is underway to advise the County on upgrading service for the redevelopment effort.
Ms. Schappet stated that automobile dealerships have long been part of MD Route 301 in Waldorf. She asked how they will blend in with the new vision plan. Mr. Ball replied that a study involving transitional zoning will be done in the fall to consider how existing businesses will fit in over time.
Mr. Moon asked if the proposed structure, not the use or parking, is the reason for the negative Staff Report. Mr. Ball confirmed. He added that the expansion is not consistent with the vision for mixed use, pedestrian development in that area.
Mr. Moon asked if the AUC Zone was specific to this area. Ms. Blessinger addressed his question.
Nancy Slepicka, Esquire, represented the Applicant. She introduced the following witnesses for the Applicant:
•Al Royce – Owner of Toyota of Waldorf Dealership
•David Clements – Architect
•James Whitehead, - ATCS
Ms. Slepicka stated that the owner should be able to continue the previously legal use and the Code allows for expansion up to 50% at the time it became non-conforming.
Ms. Slepicka noted four different aspects involved in this issue as follows:
1. Business – implications are significant
2. County – will benefit from the changes being proposed
3. Citizens and family - impacted by the changes adopted in 2010
4. Sense of Fairness - what is the fair thing to do?
Ms. Slepicka continued that Toyota of Waldorf has been operating successfully in this area for over 30 years and they have been a good corporate citizen of the County. Toyota of Waldorf has invested over 7 million dollars prior to the time the zoning was changed and employs 135 people. It provides automotive services to residents of Charles County and draws people to Charles County from 12 different Maryland counties and 7 different states according to the Applicant’s records.
The site consists of over 8 acres. The issue is the construction of a new building to accommodate the body shop. The additional space is needed to continue to operate successfully. Finding a new location outside of the AUC Zone for the body shop is not something that works.
The Staff Report states that the application complies with the requirements except for the Comprehensive Plan objectives.
The Waldorf Urban Design Plan is a vision to be accomplished over time. Light rail aspect is not in the immediate future.
The following Applicant Exhibit was entered into the record:
Exhibit #1 – Comparison of Future Maryland Rail Systems
Ms. Slepicka asked the Board to look at the Applicant’s request in terms of a transition period. The construction of the building proposed would occur relatively quickly and allow the business to thrive while the Waldorf Urban Design Plan studies are on-going.
The Chairman swore in the following witness:
2900 Tobacco Rd.
Chesapeake Beach, MD
The witness is employed by Architectural Associates. He briefly described his experience in his architectural business. He has been working with the Applicant over the years. He stated the Applicant had looked at structured parking back in 2003 when he was considering an expansion. He described the long range plan for the property.
The Chairman swore in the following witness:
2805 Trumpeter Ct.
He manages the engineering firm of ATCS, PLC located in Waldorf. ATCS is a transportation and civil engineering firm. He described his experience with builders and developers. He talked about the infrastructure along Old Washington Road in terms of the Vision Plan.
The following Applicant Exhibit was presented for the record:
Exhibit #2 – Acton Lane Aerial & Downtown Waldorf Vision Plan (partial)
Ms. Slepicka made closing remarks, noting that the property will be developed when the time is right.
Mr. Moon asked the following questions: Can you give me an investment estimate for the proposed expansion? Will there be additional jobs?
The Board discussed the new Waldorf Urban Design Plan vision and transition timeframe.
Mr. Ball clarified issues regarding the Plan as it relates to light rail. The Plan envisions bus rapid transit before light rail. Significant steps have been taken.
There was no further testimony. Docket #1286 was closed.
Actions by the Board
A MOTION was made by the Vice Chairman, seconded by Ms. McKinney, to approve the expansion of a non-conforming use for Docket #1286 with the following changes to the Staff Report: 1) Page 8, # H. shall be re-worded to show compliance with the Comprehensive Plan, 2) Staff Condition of Approval #2 shall be removed and 3) The last sentence of Staff Condition of Approval #3 shall be modified as follows: “The exterior appearance of the building must be in compliance with existing structures on the property.” With all voting in favor, the MOTION passed.
The Decision & Order was signed for Docket #1274 – Great Mills Construction.
The meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.