George Mason Law School

Planning commission open to third option

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October 23, 2009

4:03 AM

The Williamsburg Planning Commission won’t be making any changes to the three-person rule, for now.

The proposal referred to the planning commission by the Williamsburg City Council, which would increase the allowed occupancy of rental units from three to four unrelated individuals, has been all but ruled out.

However, a third option seemed to be picking up steam in Wednesday’s meeting.

The alternative proposal being considered by the planning commission, known as “option three,” would allow a four-person limit in the city’s B-3 General Business District, which occupies the stretch of Richmond
Road from Brooks Street to Ironbound Road.

“We’re all on board,” Students for a Better Williamsburg member Jeff Dailey ’10 said of the proposal.
Student Assembly Undersecretary for Public Affairs David Witkowsky ’11 could not be reached for comment.

However, the four planning commission members in attendance at the work session seemed reluctant to recommend the B-3 option to the city council until it could be studied further, especially with commission members Doug Pons, Sean Driscoll and Joe Hertzler not in attendance.

“I don’t think we should rush into Option Three,” commission member Jim Joseph said. “We are willing to
look at Option Three as a separate project.”

The planning commission has until Nov. 27 to issue a recommendation to the city council on any proposed changes to the zoning ordinance.

In several meetings held over the past few weeks, it has become apparent that the commission will not recommend the changes to the three-person rule sought by the SA and SBW.

Increasing the level of occupancy allowance in B-3 would have a limited short-term effect on the city’s rental properties. The proposal limits the increase to multi-family dwellings, such as apartments. Currently, there are only 14 apartments in B-3.

“The four-person possibility in that district would be more aimed [toward] redevelopment,” Zoning Commissioner Reed Nester said. “There could be some development … of the Williamsburg Shopping Center.”

Nester also listed the vacant lot at the corner of Richmond Road and Mount Vernon Avenue, the lot beside Walgreens on Lafayette Street and the old Governor’s Inn as other areas that could be developed.

Because B-3 is a General Business District, any future development would require a Special Use Permit approved by the city council. Developments would also have to dedicate at least one-third of floor space toward commercial usage. Generally, this is reserved for the ground floor, with apartments occupying the floors above.

The College of William and Mary’s plans to develop property off of Richmond Road was touted as an example of what the planning commission would consider for B-3. The plan includes 12,000 square feet for commercial space and 14 apartments that would accommodate 56 students.

The planning commission will have to approve a text amendment to the code in to accommodate the College’s housing expansion. Currently, a density limit prohibits more than 14 people from living on one acre, and 10 from living on one lot. The College needs approval for 10 people per lot to proceed.

The planning commission will be holding a public hearing on Nov. 18 to continue its discussion of the zoning ordinance.

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