Zone plan delay asked by group


A Westminster business group wants to delay a proposed zoning law change that would bar gas stations, animal hospitals and liquor stores from moving into the city's central business district.

The Greater Westminster Development Corp. (GWDC) will ask the city planning commission tonight not to make a recommendation on the proposed changes to the City Council until business representatives can raise some points.

"We want this to be in a spirit of cooperation," said James H. Dulany IV, GWDC president. "We just think we were not included in this initiative."

The commission scheduled a vote for its meeting tonight after reviewing -- and almost endorsing -- the proposed changes last month. Commission members put off voting on the recommendation until the July meeting at the urging of Councilman Stephen R. Chapin Sr., council liaison to the commission.

The zoning changes, proposed by the City Council, are an attempt to create a retail district of businesses such as hardware, clothing, food and furniture stores. The district would be approximately the area bound by John or Bond streets on the west, Longwell Avenue on the east, Green Street on the south and Winter's Alley or Emerald Hill Drive on the north.

"The whole concept is to have businesses that help each other," said Thomas B. Beyard, city planning director.

Liquor stores, animal hospitals, carpentry or sheet metal shops, adult entertainment centers, amusement centers such pool halls or video game arcades and funeral homes are on the list of businesses that would be barred from opening in the central retail district.

The business community feels that eliminating some of those uses could hurt development of the downtown area, Mr. Dulany said.

He said the changes could also hurt commercial properties' market appeal. For example, if a downtown business property could be used in 14 possible ways, it is likely to have a higher sale value than if it could be used in seven ways.

Mr. Dulany said he is not aware of any proposed use for a downtown property that would be barred if the zoning changes are adopted. He said a delay would allow time to look at the issues, or the government could launch a citywide zoning study.

Mr. Chapin said his biggest concern was that although existing businesses on the list would be allowed to continue operating downtown, they would become nonconforming under zoning law. That means they wouldn't be allowed to expand and would be barred from reopening if they closed for more than six months.

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