The developer of a large residential and commercial project planned in Downtown Salisbury is appealing a recent decision by the city’s Board of Appeals to deny a request for a special exception.
Representatives of Salisbury Town Center Apartments had asked the board for a special exception to increase density to 77 units per acre on part of Lot 1 and all of Lots 11 and 15. All of the properties are former city parking lots that were sold to the developer.
The board voted on Nov. 2 to deny the request following a lengthy public hearing with opposition from residents and nearby property owners, most of whom have objected to the elimination of the parking lots and to what they see as unnecessary costs for the construction of a new parking garage on part of the land.
Online court records show an appeal of the board’s decision was filed Nov. 8 in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County.
“We are committed to the project and plan to see it through,” said Brad Gillis, a developer of the project.
City officials also said they stand behind the plans for the Town Center project.
“The city of Salisbury is committed to the redevelopment of Downtown Salisbury and will continue to explore all options to move development projects forward,” City Administrator Andy Kitzrow said in an email.
Attorneys representing opponents of the project who spoke at the meeting told Board of Appeals members they lack the power to grant a special exception to allow for more than the permitted 40 units per acre because the state law expressly requires a variance, not a special exception, for that purpose
City planning staff had recommended approval of the special exception that would have increased the density by 37 units per acre, but not to exceed 222 units over the total project area, but recommended several conditions. Among them were final approvals from the Salisbury Planning Commission and Historic District Commission, to obtain at least one building permit within one year and a review of the parking study.
The properties, which have a Central Business District zoning classification, have been slated for redevelopment as far back as 2002: The largest is Lot 1 which is opposite the Wicomico Public Library, Lot 11 adjacent to Lot 1 between Circle Avenue and West Market Street and Lot 15 behind the Powell Building.
The city and Salisbury Town Center Apartments LLC entered into a deal on Lots 1 and 11 under an agreement dating to 2015.
Under an amended agreement with the developer that was approved in June, Lot 1 was subdivided into three parcels, with the city retaining ownership of the eastern portion. Part of the city’s portion is being developed as a town center called Unity Square that will include a water feature, children’s play area and flexible space for public outdoor gatherings such as festivals and other events in the city’s Downtown.
The city’s piece of Lot 1 also will contain a new parking garage that will be built by the developer and owned and operated by the city. It will be financed with a bond issue and paid off with fees charged to garage users.
The amended agreement also adds Lot 15, the sale of which was only approved last year.
The development will include three four-story buildings with 222 apartments and a separate one-story commercial building facing Unity Square.