The Pratt Family on Maple Avenue hoped to convince the Walkersville Planning Commission to rezone their property from Residential to Old Town Mixed Use Tuesday evening. After hearing from staff and the applicants, the Planning Commission explained that Maryland law forbids them from recommending a rezoning unless there was a mistake in the zoning of the property during the last comprehensive re-zoning of the whole town or if the character of the neighborhood had changed dramatically. The Planning Commission could not find either of these to be true.
Commissioner Russ Winch told the Pratts that he could find no reason that their property not be in the Old Town Mixed Use, but that rezoning without cause would create havoc for the town. He and Dick Brady, Planning Commission member, noted that the Planning Commission is in the process of changing the Old Town Mixed Use District. They agreed that a rezoning of the Old Town District would allow the Pratts to request a rezoning at that time. As rezoning requests cannot be made more than once in a year, the Pratts decided to withdraw their request rather than having it denied.
The Planning Commission went directly into discussions about updating the Old Town Mixed Use District. The members have been in the process of updating the code for OTM most of this year. Planning Commission member Michael Kuster voiced his concerns about the set back requirements. He and Commissioner Winch felt that the requirements would leave many of the properties in non-conformance despite that being the impotence for the update. Mr. Kuster proposed removing the set-back requirements all together. Mr. Brady felt it important to have set-back requirements for new construction. As no compromise was reached, the commission decided to revisit the updates at their next meeting.
The commission quickly voted to recommend updates to Town Code regarding obstructions of view at intersections and a whole new section on fences for the code. Those items have also been discussed most of the year.
Before adjourning, Jonathan Soule, a representative for the Bell Development on Fountain Rock Road pressed for removal of conditions on their preliminary plan. They felt the conditions had been met. Members of the Planning Commission did not, and seemed unprepared for the discussion which was not on their agenda. Bell Development representatives discussed some of the members concerns. Mr. Brady had their plans with him and began asking questions. Planning Commission members David Ennis and Michael Kuster both felt that their questions and requests for comments from the county and the State Highway Administration had not been provided. Mr. Brady told the representatives that the members had many questions and concerns. Mr. Soule argued that the conditions were based on the commission having time to review the traffic study, but the members disagreed. He informed the Planning Commission that he had received the SHA comments a few days ago. Mr. Brady moved to approve the plan without condition, but failed to get support from the majority. Mr. Soule asked how much longer they could expect to wait.
The Planning Commission decided to meet for a workshop on October 14, 2014 to further discuss OTM District updates and the Bell Development.