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Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) members have started their review of the Borough Zoning Commission’s (BZC) proposed zoning regulations concerning “landmark properties,” which are intended to encourage the restoration and preservation of borough buildings considered to have historic and cultural value.
However, Borough Warden James Gaston, representing the Borough Board of Burgesses, raised strong opposition to the proposed Landmark Property Overlay Zone (LPOZ) regulations, criticizing them for a variety of reasons at a September 7 P&Z session.
The BZC had referred the proposed zoning rules to the P&Z for review because the P&Z serves as the borough’s planning agency, formally commenting to the BZC on such regulatory proposals. After it formulates a final LPOZ zoning rules proposal, the BZC would conduct a public hearing, after which it would take action.
George Benson, town director of planning, told P&Z members that under the proposed LPOZ regulations, zoning rules affecting individual buildings could be created. Such an approach would allow buildings to have uses that would generate income, he said. Mr Benson said the proposed rules would be used as a mechanism to benefit Edmond Town Hall, the former seat of local government at 45 Main Street. Local officials are seeking to have Edmond Town Hall become financially self-sufficient, he said.
P&Z Chairman Robert Mulholland said the proposed rules would allow nonprofit organizations to operate in residentially zoned areas in the borough. “They’re still working out a lot of this,” he said of the BZC’s continuing work on formulating LPOZ regulations.
Mr Benson observed that the BZC has reworked the zoning rules proposal several times.
Mr Gaston presented a nine-page statement to the P&Z listing a range of objections to the proposed LPOZ rules. The proposed regulations also are nine pages long.
“I oppose these regulations…It [proposal] is not completely thought out,” Mr Gaston said.
The proposed rules conflict with the interests of historic preservation, he charged.
Mr Gaston’s statement says, “I have not heard a single Main Street resident in support of the proposal, except perhaps one Borough Zoning Commission member. I have spoken to many about it.”
Mr Gaston raises a range of procedural issues about how the zoning rules proposal was formulated and about its availability to the public for review. Also, “The proposal shows a ‘disconnect’ with the historic preservation efforts of the Borough and its dedicated boards and commissions,” according to the statement.
In the statement, Mr Gaston recommends that the P&Z reject the proposed LPOZ regulations, offering three sets of options on how to proceed after that.
Mr Gaston suggests that the BZC be instructed to meet with the Board of Burgesses and the Borough Historic District Commission to reach some agreement on the LPOZ rules. Alternately, he suggests that LPOZ zoning be limited to town-owned and borough-owned properties. Thirdly, Mr Gaston suggests that any determinations on LPOZ zoning status be made by the Borough Historic District Commission.
Also at the September 7 P&Z session, Robert Hall, representing his wife Margot Hall, who chairs the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers, said it would be good if the proposed LPOZ regulations were focused on Edmond Town Hall’s future uses.
The goals of the proposed LPOZ rules are protecting property values, fostering a sense of history and civic pride, preserving architectural heritage, and protecting community amenities. Individual affected buildings would have their own LPOZ zone. Such a land use zone would not amount to a “historic district,” according to the BZC’s draft proposal.
Such zoning regulations would affect nonprofit and not-for-profit uses of landmark buildings. Educational uses would be allowed, such as instruction geared toward support of the public school curriculum.
BZC members have been discussing developing such land use rules for many months, with a focus on creating rules that initially would be applied to Edmond Town Hall. That building is in a R-1 (Residential) zone.
The draft proposal lists a set of standards for a property’s receiving LPOZ status. Such structures must be at least 40 years old, and exhibit uniqueness, historical significance, architectural distinctiveness, and cultural importance, among other qualities.
An application for rezoning that seeks LPOZ status would list a range of information on the historic/cultural significance of a structure, plus information on proposed uses of the structure, data on who would occupy the property, and a set of architectural and landscaping plans describing how the property would be preserved and restored. BZC review would be subject to a public hearing. BZC approvals may include a change of zone and, optionally, a special zoning permit.
Potential uses allowed by a special zoning permit may include the principal uses and the accessory uses that are currently allowed in a borough Residential zone, plus not-for-profit uses and nonprofit uses, charitable uses, and educational uses.
Continued P&Z review of the LPOZ zoning rules proposal is expected at the October 5 P&Z meeting.