Westminster officials stop plans to rezone Main Street buildings

January 25, 2000|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Plans stalled last night to give two buildings on Main Street in Westminster a new designation that would allow for intensive retail, office and commercial use, while barring new housing.

Moments after a public hearing before the Westminster Common Council, the elected officials declined to introduce the ordinance to rezone the 1934 post office building at 83 E. Main St. and the old fire hall at 66 E. Main St.

The ordinance died -- for now -- when no one seconded the motion to introduce it. The map change would have been the first under the city's new central commerce zone, which applies only to selected properties rather than a geographic area.

Tailored to downtown Westminster, the new zone, created last month, addresses merchants' concerns that commercial and business zoning was the same for Main Street as for Route 140, said Thomas B. Beyard, the city's planning and public works director. But those who spoke at last night's public hearing, including fire hall owner David Max, objected to the exclusion of housing.

"Mixed-use buildings within the city corridor is critical to the future of the city," said Gerald J. Ryan, who submitted a proposal for the Farmers Supply Co. property. "There is no city unless there's someone who lives here."

Ethan Seidel of Greater Westminster Development Corp. asked the council to consider allowing residential use on upper levels of a building through a special exception permit. The council is expected to take up the issue at its Feb. 14 meeting.

This month, the planning commission recommended the postal building and firehouse for the central commerce zone.

The city also had considered including two city-owned properties: the Farmers Supply site, one block off Main Street at Liberty and Green streets, and the Southern States property, two blocks north of Main Street. But because recent redevelopment proposals for those parcels include housing, planning commissioners decided against including them in the new commerce zone.

The post office, fire hall and Farmers Supply properties were singled out in 1994 in a consultant's downtown revitalization report as "key sites" for a healthy downtown.

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