Poolesville’s plans to revitalize its downtown district were met with warnings at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening.
The town’s planning commission has proposed changes to Poolesville’s zoning requirements that would remove a “restrictive” Central Business District overlay zone, according to town manager Wade Yost. Lots along Poolesville’s Fisher Avenue, in the downtown district, are currently affected by this zoning.
The zone has been dubbed the “Can’t Be Done” zone by business owners and landlords, Yost said. Town commissioner Chuck Stump said there will be changes to parking requirements, where businesses had to have a certain number of parking spaces. The current town regulations requires have one parking space per 100 square feet of sales floor area. In practice, those parking lots were often half-empty, he said. But the newly proposed regulations would only require one space per 300 square feet of sales floor.
Recently, town commissioners granted a waiver to Dollar General allowing that tenant to include less parking than the current zoning requires. Fewer spaces will be required for businesses in the zoning proposal.
After removing the restrictions of the zone, commissioners hope business owners will be more interested in moving in, drawing residents and becoming a social place to support the town’s economy.
At a public hearing on the issue at town hall Tuesday evening, Montgomery Countryside Alliance Executive Director Caroline Taylor voiced her concern with the zoning proposal.
Taylor said the fact that much of Poolesville’s water supply comes from groundwater means the commissioners should be careful about adding more impervious ground to the downtown area.
“We need to look at the realities that we may be facing in the years to come,” she said.
At the request of the commissioners, the planning commission is also proposing changes to residential zoning, town commissioner Chuck Stump said. The changes create a “transition” zoning between smaller half acre and three-quarter acre lots and the larger 25-acre lots around town.
As a result, eight farm properties at the southeastern corner of Hughes Road and Westerly Avenue would be re-zoned. Yost said the properties’ residents were notified of the potential changes and are in favor of the amendment.
If the town commissioners approve the proposed zoning changes, up to 27 additional homes could be built on those eight lots. At this time, each lot has one home.
“In reality, considerations for roads, floodplains and any additional natural features would most likely reduce this even further,” Yost said.
Poolesville resident Dana Thompson spoke out against the change at the public hearing.
“We picked [our home] because we wanted the views of the woods and the views of the farms,” she said.
Yost pointed out that sewer and water connections have not been allocated to those lots.
“It could take up to ten years for any available future allocations to be considered,” Yost said.
The town commissioners will take comments on the proposed amendments until Feb. 25.