HURLOCK — A dozen or so residents had a stake in the decision made on April 9 by the Hurlock Planning and Zoning Commission. They attended a meeting at the town hall to express their opinions about a rezoning request.
It was the first commission meeting in several years. The recently appointed members include: David Wands, Sonny Jones, Mike Swann, Vaughn Evans, and Jamie Monroe. Mr. Evans, principal of Hurlock Middle School, was elected chairman; Mr. Wands was named vice chair. Amy Hopkins took minutes for the meeting. Also present were Town Administrator John Avery and Town Attorney Robert Merriken.
Former Planning & Zoning Administrator Linda Nabb is temporarily serving as a contract staff member to aid new commissioners. By majority vote the planning commission will recommend for or against the request to the council which has final say on zoning issues.
Ms. Nabb said, “For tonight’s consideration you have the request from Oxford-Chase Development to rezone two parcels of land from R-3 residential to C-2 commercial.” The applicant has contracts of sale on 1.3 acres including 206, 208, and 210 S. Main St. The town owns #208, which is already zoned commercial. The intent is to construct a Dollar General store on the three parcels.
Currently the vicinity is a mixture of commercial and residential zoning. Most of the properties have their present zoning category as a result of a comprehensive rezoning in 1990 when the town revamped zoning ordinance text, maps and categories. The subject properties, 206 and 210 have C-2 and R-3 neighbors adjacent to them. In 1993 #208 was rezoned to C-2. In 2001 a large area was rezoned from R-3 to C-2 and included 201, 203, 205, and 207 S. Main St.
The commission examines potential adverse impacts on Hurlock’s infrastructure. According to Ms. Nabb, the water/sewer demand will likely be less with commercial use than residential. The health department uses a standard of 250 gals. per dwelling per day of water and sewer demand. For commercial the standard is 15 gals. per employee per day per 8 hour shift.
The C-2 zoned district is Hurlock’s main district for commercial uses. But with that designation, commercial uses and single and two family dwellings are also permitted. C-2 also allows multifamily use as a special exception with additional commercial uses. Parking standards are determined by the particular use. For R-3, one parking space is required; a retail establishment requires one parking space for each 200 sq. ft of gross square area used for merchandising. It also requires a buffer between residential and commercial.
In his presentation, Oxford-Chase attorney Joe Stevens told the audience there are two criteria for rezoning: Either a mistake was made in the original zoning; or, there has been a change in character in the neighborhood since the last comprehensive rezoning.
“We identified a number of the non-residential commercial uses in the downtown,” he said. There is a scattering of commercial establishments but not an exact commercial core, he explained. The neighborhood around the property shows six different properties that were rezoned to commercial near the properties in question and added that much rezoning has been done. Ms. Nabb explained that in 1989, 204 S. Main was rezoned C-2 commercial and retained that category in 1990.
Mr. Stevens said the population grew from 1,706 in the 1990 census to almost 2,100 in 2010 – a 22 percent increase. He added there would be no additional need for water or sewer; no impact on the school system; no additional recreational facilities needed; and, the store will generate increased tax revenue. The proposed site must meet: State highway access requirements; architectural standards; low intensity use regarding noise, and lights. The rezoning request is based on a change in the character of the neighborhood.
John Camp, principal in Oxford-Chase Development, explained that Oxford-Chase is the developer for Dollar General. He showed the site plan for a 9,100 sq. ft store and explained that the property meets all the requirements for the store. Answering anticipated questions from neighbors, he said the property will be fenced on three sides. Deliveries by semi trucks are weekly although vans will also make deliveries.
He anticipates eight to ten employees, two to three per shift. Zero lighting at the property line will have no spillover of escaping light. The hours will be 8 a.m. to 9 or 100 p.m. The proposed building is upgraded from a typical design to “meet the character of the town with a brick look.” He compared the Hurlock proposal to a Ridgely store, “which is set into a residential community similar to this.”
Resident and Main Street store owner James Collins said he is not opposed to Dollar General coming to downtown but is opposed to the property they chose. “Within a block of the site that you chose,” he noted, “you already have another site that is shovel ready” and said the block he owns would have been a better location for the store since it is already commercially zoned, has concrete pads, adequate parking, and is closer to the town’s small commercial district.
Comments by audience members whose properties are adjacent or near the proposed site offered numerous arguments against the project. Residents said they did not purchase their homes to be next to a large Dollar General store. They asked if the town can support the existing Family Dollar and another dollar store. They worried about trash, trespassing, increased traffic, and safety of their young children.
A large number were disturbed by the impact on the small town “flavor of Hurlock.” No residents spoke in favor of the rezoning.
Mr. Stevens clarified that while Oxford-Chase has contracts on the property none will be purchased unless the rezoning is approved by the council. “It all depends on the project moving forward. We believe that by improving these properties with a substantial building and the money the company is going to invest we believe it will enhance the town.”
While the meeting was potentially contentious, chairman Evans’ firm hand ensured that order was maintained. He asked the commission to recommend to the council either for or against the requested rezoning. “It’s just the rezoning from R-3 to C-2 at this stage. Not whether or not a Dollar General will go there. The question is now a favorable or unfavorable recommendation.”
The commission voted for a favorable recommendation to rezone to C-2 with the stipulation that the three properties will be held under one deed. If the council and developer decide to move forward with the project public hearings will be held.