Rezoning for Clarke convenience store clears hurdle
Posted: February 2, 2013
The Winchester Star
BERRYVILLE — A new convenience store, with fuel sales, won approval from the Clarke County Planning Commission Friday on a 7-3 vote.
The proposal will now go to the county supervisors, who are expected to set a public hearing on the request for conditional zoning for their March meeting.
Mahlon Jones has asked county officials to rezone just over five acres at 3355 Lord Fairfax Highway (U.S. 340) north of Berryville for the retail establishment.
The new store would replace the 340 Cigarette Outlet.
If the plan is approved by the supervisors, Jones said, he hopes construction can start in April and be completed in six months.
County Planning Director Brandon Stidham said the zoning change, from Agriculture to Highway Commercial, would align it with the actual use on the property. Some sort of store — with gasoline sales or a restaurant or bar — has been on the land since the time before the county had zoning.
Supervisor John Staelin objected to the change, saying it would set a precedent for other businesspeople who might want to enlarge their uses on land that is not properly zoned.
“Will you be able, in good faith, to turn those applicants down?” he asked.
Stidham said the opinion of the county government’s legal counsel is that the decision in this case could not be applied to other properties unless they had the same set of circumstances.
Commissioner William “Chip” Steinmetz was concerned that county officials were indulging in spot-zoning and apparently offering to allow the building, planned for 5,500 square feet, to enlarge at will to 10,000 in the future.
Stidham said any expansion must be presented to the Planning Commission for a new site plan review.
And, said Stidham, Jones has proffered that if the zoning is approved he will never enlarge the store to the full size allowed. The maximum size allowed in the Highway Commercial zone is 15,000 square feet, but Jones said he will not go beyond 10,000.
Jones is also offering off-site improvements to Lord Fairfax Highway, designed to improve what the Virginia Department of Transportation has labeled a “uniquely dangerous” site.
The new owner purchased extra land to add a turn lane for a safer entrance to the store, which is at the top of a blind hill.
He will also install a left-turn lane on the west side of the highway for the safety of southbound motorists who want to use the crossover south of the convenience store to reach it.
Jones would also pay for improvements to the median cross-over north of the store, if those become necessary within five years.
By building on the rear of the site and removing the structure that sits so close to the highway, changing the lighting, creating a single entrance and a new well and septic system, Jones is improving the situation at the “grandfathered” business.
Nonetheless, Steinmetz believes the approval was a “spot-zoning” and that it will create problems with noise and a decrease in property values for neighbors.
“You’re going to take a little store with some modest amount of traffic and supersize it,” he said.
The final vote saw Steinmetz, Staelin and Cliff Nelson voting against the conditional rezoning, as well as the site plan submitted for the new facility.
Attending the meeting in the Joint Government Center were Chairman George Ohrstrom and Commissioners Scott Kreider, Cliff Nelson, William “Chip” Steinmetz, Thomas McFillen, Anne Caldwell, Robina Rich Bouffault, Clay Brumback and Supervisor John Staelin. Commissioner Jon Turkel was absent.
— Contact Val Van Meter at email@example.com