Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Graham, NC 27253
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Graham city council denies rezoning; says former member didn’t provide enough detail

Graham’s city council was unanimous in turning down an encore proposal from former city councilman Lee Kimrey for an office building to be built on a half-acre lot across from the post office.

Council members were uniformly critical of a pencil sketch that is the only “site plan” Kimrey provided for his concept for the lot.

This lot (206 South Marshall Street) at the corner of South Marshall and East Pine streets, was originally proposed to be added to B-1 (downtown business district) zoning; then Lee Kimrey changed it to a request for conditional business rezoning, using elements of both Office and Institutional and the downtown district.

When the council turned to the item on the agenda, the second public hearing of the night, councilman Bobby Chin initially motioned to dismiss the item from the council’s consideration because he said the “conceptual” drawing Kimrey had provided was “inadequate” to comply with Graham’s requirements as outlined in the city’s ordinances.

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But Graham’s planner, Justin Snyder, said that since a public hearing on the rezoning request had been advertised for the meeting, the council needed to conduct such a hearing.

Kimrey had approached the council earlier this year to have a downtown business zoning for the same parcel, but council members told him then that the provisions of that zoning designation were too broad. There are no requirements for setbacks, for instance, or parking.

So Kimrey revised the plan somewhat, asking for conditional business rezoning.

While Kimrey had seemingly accepted a list of specific business purposes that could be in the “conditions” during the planning board meeting last month, he seemed to have changed his mind this week, wanting to return to the full list of options available in the downtown business district – except that he was willing to take out an ABC store and a bar from the types of business that could be in his building.

Council members quizzed Kimrey on why he had not provided more specificity. Kimrey insisted that it was not necessary, but mayor Jennifer Talley said she did not know of any conditional zoning request that had ever been approved by the council with as little detail as Kimrey was offering.

“We can’t approve something that is just conceptual,” Talley told Kimrey.

Chin said that Kimrey was asking the council to “take him at his word.”

“If we break the rules for you,” council member Bonnie Whitaker added, “we’ll face other requests” to do the same thing.

Talley added, “The whole point of conditional zoning is to take away the fear of uncertainties,” so that neighbors, other residents, the city council, and city staff will know the exact parameters of the proposed project.

“I want you to be successful,” she said, but insisted that he must provide more detail.

Talley explained that she had rarely seen a plan as incomplete as the one Kimrey presented; she made a similar comment later in the meeting to Jason Cox, who also presented a plan with no dimensions on building or parking lot size – or the number of spaces to be included in the parking lot.

Kimrey argued that it could cost from $10,000 to $100,000 to obtain detailed site plans of the type the council appeared to be insisting on.

But council members were resolute. After closing the public hearing, the council voted unanimously, 5-0, for Whitaker’s motion, seconded by Chin, to deny the conditional rezoning request.

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