Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has endorsed a rezoning request that calls for a range of low-intensity commercial and institutional uses along an undeveloped stretch of South Church Street.
This particular request concerns two largely vacant parcels along South Church Street that are situated not far from the intersection with Collinwood Drive. Totaling some 3.5 acres, these parcels are currently zoned for general business and office institutional use, although the city’s land use plan designates them for potential residential development.
Chris Geiger, the property’s would-be purchaser, has asked the city to rezone both of these lots for a “limited-use” form of general business development. This customized designation would pare down the wide range of uses allowed in a general business zone to 32 options that Geiger deems most suitable for this specific location.
During the commission’s meeting on Monday, Amanda Hodierne, a real estate lawyer in Geiger’s employ, tried to explain Geiger’s motive for dressing up his rezoning request in this “limited-use” garb. Hodierne pointed out that these two adjoining parcels occupy a small gap in the retail development that teems along much of South Church Street.
“You’ve got a lot of commercial intensity to the west as you’re headed to Greensboro,” she went on to explain, “and to the east, you’ve got a great deal of commercial intensity as you start to head into downtown, while off the corridor, you have a lot of interior residential neighborhoods.”
In order to strike a balance between these commercial and residential zones, Hodierne said that her client has seized on the flexibility offered by the “limited-use” form of general business development.
“This allows us to curtail the uses to better customize the zoning district so that it matches what’s needed in this space,” she added. “It’s focused on neighborhood-serving types of commercial [development] and not destination commercial.”
Included in the applicant’s inventory are a number of commercial activities such as restaurants, small-scale retailers, medical and professional offices, financial services, animal grooming and veterinary services, a microbrewery, and a nail salon. The property could also be developed for institutional purposes like an arboretum or park, a museum or a library, a childcare center, a community center, a lab, or a government office. Other possibilities include a “minor utility,” multi-family residences, or dwellings above street-level businesses.
Hodierne said that in preparation for her client’s appearance before the planning commission, she invited each of the property owners within a few hundred feet of these parcels to a community meeting.
“No one attended our meeting,” she added with a chuckle, “and you also don’t see anyone here tonight, so I hope that means we have done a good job of customizing this district.”
Geiger’s request nevertheless raised some questions for planning commission member Richard Parker – specifically about the microbrewery that appeared in the applicant’s “limited-use” list. Hodierne assured Parker that her client doesn’t have any plans to pursue this proposed use, which prompted Parker to suggest that Geiger strike the microbrewery from his list altogether to avoid any friction with Burlington’s city council.
Overall, the planning commission seemed pleased with Geiger’s proposal, which it went on to recommend to the city council by a margin of 5-to-0.