Bel Air commissioners to award financing bid Monday

At an unusually busy work session Tuesday evening, Bel Air town officials discussed the award of a contract for bank financing of $500,000 of the $1.3 million used to buy a Main Street building last year.

Also discussed was a need for a house-per-house fee to defray administrative costs when the town makes repairs to storm ponds and other drainage structures that were built in specific developments by the developer and are now the responsibility of the HOA.


They also reviewed proposed changes to the development regulations, including one to reduce parking requirements for apartment developments and businesses, something one commissioner says he will oppose.

BB&T acquisition financing

The town commissioners are expected to vote Monday on a contract for bank financing for their August purchase of a building on South Main Street.

The town purchased the former Branch Banking and Trust building on South Main Street for more than $1.3 million in August and recently applied for bank financing for the remaining balance, Finance Director Lisa Moody explained.

Approximately $800,000 was taken from the unreserved fund balance, Moody said, and the bank financing is for the remaining roughly $515,000. As of the work session, she had not selected a bank to award the bid to but did say the rates ranged from 2.2 percent to 7.5 percent for the general obligation bond.

The town hopes to close no later than March 20 after introducing a resolution for the bond, as the town charter requires, Moody said.

The town purchased the vacant building and adjoining parking lot with the intention of razing the building and converting the site to more public parking, a temporary move until town officials decide on a permanent use for the property, most likely future town offices.

The BB&T building, originally the headquarters of Bel Air based Commercial & Savings Bank, which is no more, escaped damage during the 1972 fire that gutted three neighboring buildings to the south, 40 years ago this week.

Development repair fees considered

Town commissioners also will be introducing a resolution at Monday's town meeting to collect added fees to cover the time spent by the finance and public works departments on repair and improvement projects in specific developments.

The town did repairs to one of the storm ponds at Majors Choice in 2010 without charging an administrative fee, expecting it to be a one-time job, but the development's association has come back with requests for two additional ponds, Moody said.

There has also been a similar request from another development and because it is becoming a regular occurrence, the town is proposing a $30 per household, per year fee for such projects, she added. Work on some repair projects by both departments requires a lot of time, Moody said, and the town does not think the taxpayers should be paying for it.

The fees are per year and bigger projects could require multiple years, Public Works Director Randolph Robertson said.

The resolution is coming up for introduction Monday; a public hearing will be within the next few weeks.


Building height limit changes

Town commissioners will also vote on a changes to the development regulations Monday.

These include allowing buildings in the B-2 district to add a half-story, setting the maximum height at 4.5 stories, with 55-foot limit, Planning Director Kevin Small said. The same requirements for going over three stories still apply, he added, including the 20-foot setback from the street.

Current code requires a 20-foot setback from the right-of-way and a 26-foot setback from the edge of a curb, Small said, and if approved, the new ordinance would allow corner businesses to count only the setback limits for their primary entrance.

Commissioner Robert Preston asked for examples of which businesses this would affected and, later, expressed his opposition to Small's proposal to reduce the number of required parking spaces for certain residences and businesses.

The code requires 2.5 parking spaces for apartment buildings and townhouses, but the new ordinance proposes reducing the required parking for apartments to two spaces only. The retail services parking requirement would also be lowered from one space per 200 square feet to one space per 250 square feet.

"I just think trying to water down the regulations at this point is not where we should be headed," Preston said, referring to parking problems on South Main Street.

The planning commission is expected to look at the ordinance during its meeting Thursday, Small said.

Other business

There will be re-appointments to the Cultural Arts Commission and Historic Preservation Commission Monday.

The next meeting is Monday, Feb. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in town hall.