EDA wants rezone to allow for old jail to be redeveloped

Posted: September 11, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The Winchester Economic Development Authority (EDA) is asking the city to rezone a former regional jail property so it can be redeveloped.

The request is to have the property at 317 S. Cameron St. rezoned to Central Business District from Residential Business District. The building on the parcel once was a jail for the city and Frederick County and most recently was operated by the governments as the Starting Point/Public Inebriate Center.

Jim Deskins, executive director of the EDA, told members of the Winchester Planning Commission at their work session Tuesday that OakCrest Cos. has a contract on the property.

The company, he said, likely would preserve the historic front section of the building — built in 1848 — but demolish the 1991 rear addition, he said. A multi-story residential structure then would be constructed on the rear of the lot.

The units would be constructed to target empty-nesters and young professionals, Deskins said, demographic groups the city has identified as desired residents.

“It would be a considerable upgrade for the area,” he said.

The rezoning would allow up to 20 dwelling units to be built on the 0.46-acre property by-right, planner Will Moore told the commissioners. However, that total could rise if a developer qualified for density bonuses.

The new building also could rise to a height of 75 feet if rezoned, whereas 35 feet is the maximum height currently allowed on the site.

John Barker, vice president of OakCrest Builders, said the company is not interested in constructing a 75-foot-tall structure, but no conditions are attached to the rezoning request to prevent an owner from building to that height.

He also said that when its analysis is done, OakCrest might determine that a 20-unit project works best.

Deskins told the commissioners that because the property is in the historic Winchester overlay district, the city’s Board of Architectural Review would have to approve construction plans.

He said the EDA has worked with OakCrest on previous projects — most recently the ongoing redevelopment of the Old Star Building at 29-35 E. Boscawen St. — and found the company to be “very, very sympathetic and positive in the work already done in the community.”

The commissioners also reviewed proposed changes to the Winchester Zoning Ordinance regarding the process for Planning Commission consideration of rezonings and ordinance text amendments.

The proposal would extend the period the commission has to act on a request to 100 days from 90 days. The additional 10 days would allow a request to be tabled twice by the commissioners so issues can be resolved instead of once.

The changes also would stipulate that the case is considered to have been referred to the Planning Commission once the application is deemed complete.

Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Chairman William Wiley, Vice-Chairman Stephen Slaughter Jr. and commissioners Carroll “Beau” Correll Jr., Martha Shickle and David Smith. Commissioners Jennifer Beatley and Kevin McKannan were absent.

— Contact Vic Bradshaw at vbradshaw@winchesterstar.com