A handful of residents came out last week to hear a local developer’s pitch for the rezoning of a property next to Thomas Dale High School’s Ninth Grade Academy.
Top Notch Contracting Inc. recently applied for the rezoning of the property located 3810 W. Hundred Road, which contains the newly restored Hatcher-Gregory building. The company is asking that various commercial uses, including antique shops, clothing stores, florist shops, etc., be allowed on the property, according to a letter from owner Whitley Blake.
At a community meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 5, Bermuda Planning Commissioner Sam Hassen said the case would come before the commission on Feb. 15. Blake is also pursuing a historic designation for the building, Hassen said.
Blake said he’d been unsuccessful attracting a tenant to share the building, and he wanted to open it up to other uses that he felt would fit well in the area. The rezoning would apply only to the existing office (O-2) zoning, he said, and not the existing residential townhouse zoning, where nine townhouses are planned.
“We’re not trying to build more buildings,” he said.
Mark Fausz*, who spoke on behalf of the Chester Community Association, said the group’s problem with the proposal was that the Chester Area Plan says uses along Route 10 from the YMCA at Parker Lane to just east of Chester Road should be no more intensive than offices. Thus far, the only retail that has been allowed is a beauty parlor on the corner of Petersburg Street and Route 10, he said, and that was permitted because the building in question had received a historic designation.
County Planner Jane Peterson said the Chester plan does encourage certain uses along the Route 10 corridor, but also recognizes the benefits of historic preservation.
Though other uses are permitted at properties with historic designations, she said, “within that, we want to see uses that are of a lighter intensity,” which disqualifies several potential uses generally allowed in commercial areas. The list of potential uses Blake sent to neighbors with his proposal is “what we felt would work well” at the location, she said.
Resident Cindi Phares, who lives near the Hatcher-Gregory building, asked what’s involved in getting the historic designation. Peterson said applicants have to go through a public process; applications are considered by the Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Committee, which then make a recommendation that must be “blessed” by the Board of Supervisors.
Resident Willie Phares asked whether there were any concerns about the traffic impact of any of the potential uses. Blake said a traffic study had indicated that the kind of businesses being considered wouldn’t really impact traffic.
Fausz asked whether Blake would be willing to remove more potential uses from the list.
“At this point, I think this list is pretty stripped down,” Blake said. But, he wants to work with the community, he said.
Fausz said the CCA was concerned about the “domino effect” and how many houses along Route 10 could get the historic designation and allow more intensive commercial uses into the corridor. While something like an antiques shop or tea room might be appropriate for the site, Fausz said, the CCA’s concern is that it might “go from that to the beauty shop.”
Blake said he understood where the CCA was coming from. His business made good on its promise to restore the house before building the townhouses, he said, and “we’re asking for a little bit of help.”
* Editor’s Note: Mark Fausz is also the Managing Editor and owner of the Village News.