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Rezoning Approved For Dollar General Project

CUMBERLAND – Even though at the beginning of the County's Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday evening there were no signed conditions to go along with the rezoning application for the proposed Dollar General expansion project they were finally agreed on by the property owners and signed off on later before the meeting was over.

With the conditions being signed, the Cumberland Supervisors were able to take the rezoning request back up later in the evening after already holding its public hearing earlier on in the agenda.

Once the item was brought back up, the Board unanimously approved the rezoning application request that would change approximately 2.52 acres across from the Shell gas station in the courthouse area from residential to business. The purpose of the rezoning application is because the applicant, Lee Pittman with Par 5 Development, is looking to construct a larger Dollar General that would include a grocery component.

The Planning Commission recommended the rezoning to the Board on Monday evening, see related front page Herald story, after being presented with a new building design.

The request presented to the Supervisors on Tuesday included a few changes from what was originally presented to the Commission, according to Bret Schardein, planning director, such as revised zoning boundaries and the inclusion of the proposed ten-foot deeded right-of-way from Route 60 to access the property to the east in the conditions.

At that point in the meeting, the conditions were still unsigned and there still was some ongoing discussion between the landowners so the Board decided to continue with the scheduled public hearing.

David Meinhard spoke during the hearing and said, “From what I'm hearing our Board of Supervisors and our Planning Commission are back to the same old same old. We are looking for any reason or any excuse to propose, adopt or whatever to block a proposed business from coming into the community that might be able to create some jobs and add something to the community…”

Afterwards, the public hearing was closed and Supervisor Bobby Oertel, District Five, asked if the decision could be accomplished before the end of the meeting since the proffers were still unsigned by all of the owners.

Schardein responded, “Staff and the Planning Commission found these proffers acceptable for recommendation. It's just that they are voluntary so the property owner has to sign and submit them.”

According to the County Attorney, Howard Estes, the proffers were a part of an ongoing conversation between the applicants and have undergone several amendments since the Commission's decision.

“There is a reference to a preliminary site plan and we don't have an updated site plan as I understand…,” he said as one example. “For the proffers to be legally binding, they have to be signed off by the owners, not just the applicant…for those to be recorded and we don't before us have a legally enforceable statement of proffers. So the rezoning before you would be based simply on the application without the proffers at this time. It doesn't mean that you all couldn't hold a public hearing as you have done and consider this at a later meeting…”

Kennell noted that he couldn't “vote on something that he doesn't have proffers for.”

“If we aren't going to have signed documentation, then I can't take action on it,” added Supervisor Bill Osl, District One.

Clark Properties Responds

The reason for the unsigned proffers at the beginning of the meeting, according to Clark, was because he was not in agreement with the language in the conditions concerning the possible right-of-way.

“Last night I told you that I would give a right-of-way providing that the Dollar (General) came in… If (Dollar General) don't come in there will be no right-of-way,” said Clark. “Does that sound right?”

Estes said, “Yes, Mr. Clark that is what you advised. But I was looking for the applicant to give guidance on the ten-foot right-of-way. The statement of proffers-one of the conditions is that it is filed with the Circuit Court's Office through the land records and it runs with the land and I can't control the timing on that and the timing on when you reach an agreement with the potential development so it's a 90-day window for the statement of proffers to be filed…”

According to Osl, there are 14 conditions and without them being signed, the Board can't take action.

“Proffers are voluntary, you've got a rezoning application and at this time there are no proffers-that's the status of this zoning,” noted Estes.

The County Attorney then noted that he also could not provide Clark with private legal advice concerning the right-of-way issue.

“It might be Dollar General or it might be some other business,” explained Osl to Clark about the rezoning request once its completed and what could happen in the future. “… All we're doing is rezoning the land.”

A Decision Was Made Later

Osl requested that the Board “not take action at the moment” but wait until later in the meeting.

Between the time the decision was delayed and when it was brought back up during the Planning Director's segment of the meeting, the conditions had been agreed upon and signed off on and because of this the Board was able to take action on the rezoning request.

At that time, the Board unanimously adopted the resolution that was read into the record and approved the rezoning request.

Parking Code Amendment

The Board also took action on a code amendment request that was submitted by John Godsey, agent representing both the landowners and applicant in the Dollar General project.

Godsey submitted an application asking that a code amendment run currently with the Dollar General rezoning application requesting to change Cumberland's ordinance to reduce the amount of retail floor space in a building allowed per parking space.

This public hearing was held at the beginning of the Board's meeting.

The County's current ordinance states that there should be one parking space per 100 square feet of retail floor space. The new language would change it to one parking space per 250 square feet of retail floor space.

According to Schardein, he also added language that this requirement be acceptable for restaurants and food stores.

The Planning Commission also held its own public hearing on Monday and recommended it to the Supervisors for approval and the Board held its own public hearing and there were two speakers.

Meinhard addressed the Supervisors and said, “Hopefully, they will take action that will allow progress and development to the county rather, as they have done so many times, blocking things from coming into the county.”

Next, Loretha Thomas spoke and addressed her easement concern although it was not being addressed in this code amendment, “I would just like to say that I, too, would like to see progress in Cumberland. I have no qualms with the Dollar General at all. However, we own the residential property on the east and on the west and there is a question of the easement for us to get to our property on the east. So far I have not received any written information on that and I just want to make the Board aware that until I do I have a problem with that easement. There will be a question about it.”

That public hearing was closed and Osl noted that the code amendment is not specific to just the Dollar General but is “applicable to any business articulated…”

“It would apply to all those businesses in Cumberland County which would make development easier for new businesses coming in as well,” he said about the amendment dealing with the number of parking spaces.

This amendment is also more in compliance with surrounding localities, according to the County's Planning Director.

“I can't figure out why we had the one per 100 to start with,” said Supervisor Oertel.

“It would make it easier for developers,” added Supervisor Elbert Womack, District Four.

The motion to approve the code amendment to Cumberland's ordinance concerning parking space requirements carried unanimously.