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Planning Notebook

Planning Revisits Overcrowding

For the first time since it recommended approval of an ordinance to prohibit single family houses from having a second kitchen, planning commissioners discussed the factors surrounding their decision.

Miriam Moore, Herndon resident, has submitted an application for a conditional use permit to allow her to install a second kitchen in the basement of her house.

In her staff report, Elizabeth Gilleran, zoning administrator, said Moore also plans to complete the basement with a bedroom, recreation room and bathroom.

"The family has expressed their intentions," said Gilleran, "and it is not their intent to rent the place out as a second dwelling unit."

The downstairs will be used for entertaining and Moore's son will be living there, she said.

Not specifically discussing Moore's application, commissioners questioned the recently approved ordinance, asking where they should draw the line on allowing or not allowing kitchens.

"It's difficult because people have come up with a kitchen and done all sorts of things to make it not a kitchen," said Gilleran about zoning violations found through community inspections. "I don't think it's a problem here, but we're treating each case with precedence."

Commissioner Theodore Hochstein said, based on some of the town's definitions, he thinks many residents could technically be living in violation of the zoning ordinance. Because of this, the final decision should come down to the applicant's intent and reasoning for the second kitchen, he said.

Chairman Carl Sivertsen suggested commissioners look into allowing the permit under the condition that the residence be subject to inspection once or twice a year, with the owner's approval. Then, if the owner sells the house, the town will still have the ability to check the basement to ensure it is not being used as a separate residence.

"This is the first case we have had like this," said Gilleran, "so we need guidance from the Planning Commission."

Commissioners are scheduled to hear from the applicant and vote on the application during the Oct. 3 public hearing.

Nature Center Discussed

After being bumped back on the town's project list last year, Runnymede Park's Nature Center has finally made it to the Planning Commission for review.

During its Sept. 26 work session, Commissioners reviewed an application submitted by the town for a conditional use permit to build the 4,000-square-foot center and conduct several other park improvements.

In his staff report, Craig Mavis, planner for the town, said the center will "greatly enhance current services and programs at Runnymede Park."

The proposal calls for the center to have a reception area, exhibit hall, multipurpose room with associated kitchenette and storage areas, children's area, resource area, naturalist's office and work-storage areas and public restrooms.

The building will also have outdoor deck areas, with one possibly being screened and an observation platform is also under consideration, said Mavis.

An additional trail will be created to link the parking area with the proposed center to allow visitors to see more of the natural surroundings before going inside the building, according to the application.

The application also states two additional entrance and exit points along the Herndon Parkway that may need to be added during the site plan review process to help traffic flow on and off the site. Planning staff is scheduled to determine which of the two proposed driveways is more desirable by the site plan stage, according to the report.

"I'm a little saddened by the fact that we're now wrestling with entryways into the park," said Commissioner Bill Tirrell. "That means more curb cuts and more entries will need to be made."

Commissioners also reviewed a comprehensive plan amendment to update the Runnymede Park Master Plan that was adopted in December 1991. The plan was changed to be consistent with a more recent Resource Management Plan that was adopted in March 2001 for the park.

The proposed Nature Center is in conformance with both plans.