City sets aside new zoning rule

CHARLES TOWN — The biggest point of contention among Charles Town leaders over the construction last year of a new CVS drug store downtown were the deep setbacks the developer proposed that opponents said gobbled up the lot.

[cleeng_content id="177047862" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Opponents of the lot’s redevelopment suggested a site plan that pulled the store closer to the street’s edge and put most of the parking behind the store along Liberty Street. Their suggestion conformed closely to a set of zoning and land use ordinances the council passed in the wake of the approval of the $5 million CVS project.

City Manager Joe Cosentini said he hoped the newly passed ordinance would help inform future development applications.

The Charles Town Planning Commission has approved a request by Holtzman Oil Corp. to redevelop the gas station and convenience store at 321 W. Washington St. The commission’s approval waives a requirement of a zoning ordinance that was passed in 2012.

The Charles Town Planning Commission has approved a request by
Holtzman Oil Corp. to redevelop the gas station and convenience store at
321 W. Washington St. The commission’s approval waives a requirement of a zoning ordinance that was passed in 2012.

Instead, in what has been the first such request after the passage of the new zoning rule in September 2012, the city’s Planning Commission voted unanimously to grant a waiver to Holtzman Oil Corp. to redevelop the Liberty Gas Station at 321 W. Washington St. — directly across the street from the site of last year’s zoning battle with CVS.

Holtzman’s plans include tearing down the convenience store now located on the nealy half-acre lot and building another one more than 160 feet from the street face, and to construct a canopy for eight filling pumps about 80 feet from the street face. The project would also add 11 parking spaces at the front of the lot at Washington Street.

Among the company’s justifications for getting the waiver, it cites the development of the CVS store, which has a setback from Washington Street of about 70 feet.

Cosentini said the approval of the waiver by the planning commission undermines the purpose of the ordinance.

“(The planning commisison) approved something completely contrary to what was intended when the ordinance was passed,” Cosentini said Monday.

As part of an 11-page waiver request filed last month, Charles Town LLC manager William Holtzman said the location of underground fuel tanks and the narrowness of the lot makes constructing the convenience store closer to Washington Street unaffordable as it would result in the store having to close while construction was started..

“Currently there are stacking issues with cars waiting for gas and there is not enough room for internal traffic to move around the pumps,” Holtzman wrote. “Any person that has utilized the facility can readily attest to the fact that the new design will be much better for public safety.”

In a 10-page staff report, the city’s planning office recommended the project be turned down. The city said siting parking spaces in the front of the filling canopy will benefit neither the store’s nor the gas station customers. The report also called for alternative designs that would not have required moving the gas tanks.

Cosentini said the commission’s approval will make it difficult for the city to turn down future waiver requests.

He said he will bring the matter up for discussion at the City Council’s Oct. 7 meeting, but doesn’t anticipate the planning commission’s decision will be overturned.[/cleeng_content]

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