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Commission Reviews Applications

Modified Amphora retail site plan comes before commission, Edwardstone subdivision application discussed.

Compared to last month's lengthy public hearings and long work sessions to discuss the now approved day-labor center, Planning Commissioners' agenda going into September is light.

With only two applications before the commission and the ongoing rewrite process of the town zoning ordinance, commissioners were able to adjourn Monday night's work session after an hour.

The first application commissioners reviewed was a site plan for the creation of a mixed-use commercial building to be built next to the existing Amphora restaurant off of Alabama Drive and Elden Street.

This is the second time the commission has reviewed the application from property owner Laconia Partnership. The first time commissioners sent the application to the Town Council recommending approval. But council members denied the application in July, stating the plan failed to meet specific requirements under the town code. Council members also questioned the proposed driveways, saying because of poor access they would have an adverse affect on Elden Street and Alabama Drive and ultimately the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Council member Steven Mitchell questioned the site plan's proposed buffer, an area between the parking lot and the residential properties that is usually landscaped to separate the different types of development. Based on his interpretation of the definition of side yards and buffers in the zoning ordinance, Mitchell said the site plan did not meet the buffer requirements. But a review of the ordinance by the town's planning staff indicated that the application had met the requirements, said Bibber.

THE DEFINITION OF a buffer and a side yard depend on each person's interpretation of the wording, Bibber said. In the zoning ordinance these two things are separate and distinct, but it was unclear if the council had combined the two. Under the town's ordinance parking is allowed in a side yard, but not in a buffered area. By denying the application because council members felt the side yard should be exclusively for landscaping purposes, the council ultimately changed the town's code to not allow parking in areas designated as side yards.

Because many of the commissioners requested clarification on the council's position as well as the definitions, Bibber said the issue would be better explained during the scheduled Sept. 12 public hearing.

Additional changes to the site plan included two driveway entrances off of Alabama Drive.

"Staff recommends that the entrance closest to Elden Street be one-way in," said Henry Bibber, director of community development. The other driveway further down Alabama should be one-way out for better traffic flow, he said.

"The crux of the debate," he said about the driveways, "is how long the stacking lane for the left turn is projected to be along Alabama Drive."

Other modifications to the application include creating a directional island, or porkchop, on Elden Street that would prohibit left turns from the driveway onto Elden.

Commissioners discussed Mitchell's interpretation of the zoning ordinance, questioning the effect it would have on existing businesses. They also discussed the driveway options, saying because the area in question is already congested with cars during peak hours the one-way in and one-way out proposal would be the best option for the plan.

THE SECOND ITEM before the commission was an application for the subdivision of a corner lot on Vine and Peachtree Streets.

In the application Stephen Schantz, applicant and owner of the land at 902 Vine Street, is proposing to divide the existing corner lot into two new lots. The existing single-family home and accessory structures — garage and shed — would be demolished to build two new single-family homes on the proposed lots. In the application Schantz asks the town to grant a waiver for the construction of a curb and gutter, said Craig Mavis, deputy zoning administrator.

Because Vine and Peachtree Streets do not have a curb and gutter, but instead ditches that are dug along the side of the road, the applicant wants to keep the corner consistent with the rest of the neighborhood.

"At some point it was decided that ditch-dug streets were more desirable than curb and gutter streets," said Bibber. "Residents along the ditch-dug streets said they wanted them to remain."

Commissioner Theodore Hochstein questioned the detention ability of the ditches, asking if the curb and gutter option was better. Bibber said the ditches actually did a good job and were considered more environmentally friendly. Because the town has no plans to add a curb and gutter to the neighborhood of the proposed subdivision, the town recommends approval of the waiver, said Mavis.

THE PROPOSED SUBDIVISION abuts the town's Village Streets Overlay Area along Vine Street, according to the town's Comprehensive Plan. This area requires a stipple finish on all new sidewalks and acorn-style streetlights, said Mavis.

Because the lot is on Peachtree Street — not a part of the overlay district — it technically would not need to line the street with acorn lights. But, to keep with the character of the neighborhood, town staff recommends the applicant install those lights along Peachtree Street, said Mavis.

Commissioner Paul LeReche questioned the size of the proposed houses, asking if there was any way the town could limit the sizing or massing of the houses.

Under the current ordinance there is no way for the town to enforce sizing restrictions in that district, said Bibber.

"They're not huge houses," he said about the proposal. "They may be two-and-a-half stories, but they're not the monster houses."

Commissioners are scheduled to hear public comment on the two applications at the next public hearing, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m. Commissioners will also hear comment regarding its on-going zoning ordinance rewrite project.