Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
The city’s new Land Development Ordinance faced its first test Tuesday ó a rezoning request on South Main Street.
But the test was rescheduled as the Salisbury Planning Board decided to send the rezoning application to a committee.
Stephen and Elia Gegorek have asked that a small parcel ó .68 acres ó at South Main Street, Forbes Avenue and Raymond Avenue be rezoned from its existing General Residential District to a Neighborhood Mixed-Use District.
The parcel includes a 1,736-square-foot house and two accessory buildings in the rear.
Senior Planner Preston Mitchell said it was his understanding that the Gegoreks, who do not own the parcel, did not intend to add to the home or tear it down.
The Neighborhood Mixed-use District prohibits buildings from exceeding a footprint of 2,000 square feet and is designed for limited scale commercial uses in areas of transition.
“South Main Street is in a transitional state right now,” Mitchell said.
While many residences are still in place along South Main Street, “there are conversions occurring as well,” he added.
The city’s planning staff concluded that the rezoning request was consistent with the Salisbury Vision 2020 Comprehensive Growth Plan.
The viability of the property’s remaining as a single-family residence has been diminished over the years, and the Neighborhood Mixed-Use District would serve as a good transitional buffer to the remaining neighborhood, according to a staff comments.
Raymond L. Condrey of 3115 Raymond Ave. spoke against the rezoning, however.
“We really don’t want to see business come in there,” he said. Condrey owns the property next door. He said he was speaking for the Watson Houston family, too.
Quite a few commercial uses such as a bank or funeral home could be built on the corner in question which would not fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, Condrey said.
“Once we open that door, anything can happen,” he added.
Planning Board member Dick Huffman agreed. When neighborhoods are destroyed, he said, it starts with a nibbling around the edges. He said this particular lot should not be rezoned in isolation.
Planning Board Chairman Mark Beymer said he was concerned that if someone bought the vacant lot next to the parcel, it could end up being a bigger intrusion into the residential area.
A motion to deny the rezoning failed by a 5-5 tie vote. The Planning Board then voted 7-3 to send it to a committee for more study.
Several of the Planning Board members noted that not much could happen on the corner lot beyond what already exists.
If the house were added on by at least 25 percent, it would kick in new landscaping requirements. The developer would be required to install a 20-foot planting yard acting as a buffer between the two zoning districts.
A 25 percent addition would make the house more than 2,000 square feet and would not be allowed anyway.
If the existing house were used as an office and remained the same size, it would require only the addition of three parking spaces.
If the house were torn down, and a new building (maximum 2,000 square feet) erected, much of the parcel’s space would be lost to required landscaping.
Planning Board member Jeff Smith said he was comfortable with the scale the Neighborhood Mixed-Use District would allow.
Karen Alexander and Diane Young pushed for the matter to be sent to a committee.
Alexander said the board should try to come up with a more holistic solution. She reminded the board that its decision on this case could set a precedent for the new Land Development Ordinance.
The ordinance became effective Jan. 1 and took the place of the city’s former zoning ordinance.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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