OV residents oppose commercial rezoning under 2010 plan

The Ocean View Town Council held the first reading of an ordinance to repeal the existing zoning map and then enact a new map, in accordance with the town’s adopted 2010 Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP).

John Sergovic, attorney for the Foxwoods Homeowner’s Association, stated that his clients were opposed to rezoning an area of the proposed map that would change part of the Archut property and three existing residential properties from residential to commercial zoning.

“We are challenging the propriety of rezoning a piece of land that is located to the south of the Banks-Bennett tax ditch off of Route 26,” said Sergovic. “I’ve tried to identify how this particular piece of property got put on the approved future land-use map. There is no record of those meetings, and we can’t ascertain why anybody would want to take a currently farmed land and move it from farming purposes to commercial uses.”

He added that there is no demand identified in the CLUP and noted multiple sections of the CLUP where it states the town’s wish to retain its “small-town charm” and that the plan is “not intended to drastically increase traffic issues.”

“You best believe we’re going to increase traffic on 26 and Central,” he said. “When you turn a farm field into a parking lot, you’re hardly reducing wildlife degradation.”

Sergovic said the rezoning that his clients oppose is rezoning anything south of the tax ditch on the Archut property. Through rezoning the properties in question, Sergovic said, there would be 11 contiguous acres of commercial property available for development.

“That area would invite a large-scale developer, because it makes 11 acres contiguous. I don’t know what it would do with the traffic congestion.”

Sergovic said the council should not approve the new zoning map as, in his clients’ opinions, the CLUP document does not coincide with the rezoning maps.

“The problem that I see … is I cannot make the mapping for this area consistent with the text of the CLUP. You have to be consistent with the plan that has the force of law. But to be consistent with the plan, that means the map and the text of the plan have to be consistent. You cannot adopt a modification because the document text is inconsistent with the map…

“I believe the town should modify the proposed zoning map change to not be rezoned commercial and leave it zoned residential, the use that was proposed in the 2004,” he concluded.

“I want to get my arms around this,” said Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader of the Foxwoods homeowners’ position. “Because, if your suggestion is what I think the suggestion is, then you’re proposing that we go back and change the Comprehensive Land Use Plan in order to avoid rezoning this property to commercial.

“Then we’ve got to go back and reenact an ordinance that took place a couple years ago,” he noted. “Go back and submit it to the Office of State Planning and Coordination. It’s got to go through the governor’s committees. It’s got to go through all that process. What if the governor’s committee says, ‘No, we won’t certify you’? Then we’re back here in a year, right?”

Councilman Tom Sheeran asked Schrader how much it would cost the Town to revise the CLUP. Schrader responded that, although he could not put a monetary amount on the process, he said the time that would go into it would be great, and the outcome could potentially not be in the Foxwoods homeowners’ favor.

Schrader added that it is required by state law that the new zoning map is enacted within 18 months following the adoption of a revised CLUP.

Councilwoman Michele Steffens suggested that Foxwoods contact property owner Russ Archut, to see if they could work out a restrictive covenant so that a portion of his land would remain residential.

Sheeran suggested that Foxwoods could look into purchasing a portion of the property to ensure that it was not built upon for commercial purposes.

“I can totally feel for the folks in Foxwoods… But at the same time, if it’s a five year plan... It’s like trying to turn a battleship around in the middle of the ocean.”

“If the battleship’s on the wrong course, you don’t want to keep the battleship going in that direction,” responded Sergovic.

Department of Public Works Supervisor Charles McMullen said that the issue had been discussed at two Planning & Zoning Commission meetings and that the commission had unanimously recommended that the council adopt the ordinance to repeal and reenact the zoning map, with the condition that council review, change and amended the current code’s definition of “open spaces.”

At the Dec. 5 P&Z meeting, Foxwoods residents had also voiced their opposition to rezoning the development’s tax ditch, which they own and maintain, to open spaces. McMullen said that the rezoning of the ditch would not give the town control over the property but would rather ensure that the area remains undeveloped.

At this week’s council meting, resident Steve Cobb said that, although he does not know any of the residents in Foxwoods, he supports their position, and he urged the council to revise the CLUP.

“These people in Foxwoods did not buy a home to have a carwash next to them. It changes their quality of life. Please look at this,” he appealed.

Mayor Gordon Wood said that he understands it is a complex and vexing issue, but he noted that no one will be fully satisfied, whatever the outcome might be.

“Nobody is going to get the full loaf in all of this,” he said.

In other town news:

• Preparations have begun for the April 14 election in Ocean View. Acting Town Manager Lee Brubaker announced at the Jan. 11 town council meeting that the filing deadline for candidates is March 15, and only the District 4 council seat, currently held by Bob Lawless, will be vacant. Currently, there are no registered candidates.

Brubaker noted that town citizens must be registered with the town by April 2 in order to vote in the upcoming election. Those who had registered previously but who have not voted in the past two town elections have been removed from the town’s registered voter list and will need to re-register if they wish to vote in the 2012 election.

A Candidate’s Night will be held at the end of March, at which residents will be able to ask candidates questions in a public forum.

• Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve an ordinance that would amend the water system fees and rates in the town. Brubaker said that, in September, Tidewater had filed with the Public Service Commission to increase bulk water rates starting that month. The request was to increase the rate by 29.75 percent. Brubaker said that Tidewater indicated to the Town that they would actually be increasing the rate by 10.49 percent.

• Officials reported that the Town had received a total of 96 résumés for the vacant town manager position. The search committee, made up of Wood, Sheeran and Bob Lawless, will be reviewing all the submitted résumés and will be deciding which candidates they wish to interview prior to selecting a final list of candidates to be interviewed by the full council.

• The council voted unanimously to approve a proclamation recognizing Receiver of Taxes Betty Jane “B.J.” Keen, who is scheduled to retire at the end of the month, for her 34 years of service to the town.

“We’ll really miss her smile, infectious laugh and positive outlook. Therefore be it resolved that the Ocean View Town Council, on behalf of the citizens of the town, recognizes and thanks Betty Jane Keen for her dedication and service to the town and its citizens on the occasion of her retirement,” read Lawless from the proclamation.

• The council voted 4-0 to give Schrader an increase in his hourly pay. The council also voted 4-0 to give all town employees who have been with the town for six months or longer a $200 bonus.