Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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Graham planning board gives green light for office, commercial project across from post office


After planning board reduces types of businesses that could be included

It was a pretty good night for getting a better reception to revisions of previously rejected rezoning requests before Graham’s planning board Tuesday night.

Two proposals that had previously been rejected by Graham’s city council got at least the endorsement from the planning board, the advisory committee that recommends whether rezoning requests should be adopted. [See also separate story on conditional rezoning approval for North Maple and West Market streets.]

Planning board members agreed to recommend former councilman Lee Kimrey’s mixed use development of a half-acre lot across from the Graham post office after deciding to specify more narrowly the types of businesses Kimrey could bring to the location.

Kimrey had originally proposed a rezoning that would have added the lot to the downtown business district, B-1.

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Developer, builder, and former Graham city councilman Lee Kimrey.

But council members expressed concerns that too many factors were beyond their oversight if they granted outright approval to that broad a rezoning designation; mentioned specifically were no ability to require on-site parking or control for the possible height of a building; theoretically, a downtown business could reach a height of five stories (although there currently are none that tall.)

Kimrey couched his latest request as preserving all of the requirements for buffers and setbacks that would apply for O&I, but wanted to include all potential allowed downtown business uses except for a bar and ABC store.

After much discussion, planning board members reversed the priorities to specifying what would be allowed, rather than what would not.  “I’m a little hesitant to open up to all B1,” said the newest planning board member, John Wooten, emphasizing “all.”

Kimrey emphasized the desire to allow, for instance, rezoning that would accommodate a coffee shop or bakery, both of which would be allowed downtown, but would not be permitted in an office or institutional designation.

Planning board members – seemingly with Kimrey’s reluctant agreement – ended up specifying more than a dozen allowable uses, including boutique stores, retail stores with no outdoor storage, bank, barber, beauty shop, convenience store (without gas pumps), in addition to all uses of office and institutional, such as professional offices.

Planning board members specified that the building would be no more than 40 feet tall (Kimrey said he could envision as many as 3 stories) and also added a requirement for a 6-footprivacy fence on the side of the lot facing a residential area of long-established homes.

Kimrey will still have to provide enough on-site parking spaces to accommodate whatever level of businesses he ultimately decides to include.

His preliminary drawing showed a parking lot on about one-third of the half-acre lot, that might accommodate around 28 parking spaces.  Kimrey also held out the potential to have ground level parking under some of the building.

Kimrey emphasized the preliminary nature of his estimates and was reluctant to specify a number, but planning director Justin Snyder speculated that Kimrey could probably provide about 30 to 35 spaces under half of the building.

Kimrey’s proposal was the only unanimous decision of the night, with planning board members endorsing the refined request, and with their added conditions, on a 5-0 vote.

See city council and planning board reaction to Kimrey’s earlier proposal for B-1, downtown business rezoning for the same lot:

City council said NO (January 2022):

Planning board gave OK (December 2021):

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