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Chase City holds up downtown renovation for planned motel

SoVaNow.com / December 16, 2020
Plans by a Chase City businessman to renovate the former Southside Furniture Store building on Main Street are on hold, for now, as Town Council debates whether hotels and motels should be allowed to operate on Main Street.

In November, Paul Jackson asked the Chase City Planning Commission to approve his request to convert the now-vacant furniture store building at 411 Main Street into 14 one-bedroom apartments. Jackson later said his plan was to renovate the entire building as a hotel/motel complex and asked for a conditional use permit to operate the business.

The area along Main Street is zoned B-3, which allows for the operation of hotels and motels.

Town planners recommended that the request be denied, as Jackson submitted no engineering studies, architectural plans, parking plans or other information regarding the project.

Chase City Mayor Alden Fahringer allowed Jackson to address Council members at their regular meeting Monday night to state his case for why the town should move forward with his request for a conditional use permit. At the same time, Council planned to vote on an amendment to the town zoning code that would have removed hotels and motels from permissive uses of properties in the B-3 district and would have required all second story apartments in the B-3 district to be single-family.

Jackson said he would withdraw his request to construct the apartments if the town would approve a conditional use permit, despite the lack of any project plans. The request was denied, and Council sent the matter back to the planning commission for further review.

At the behest of councilman Marshall “Tommy” Whitaker, Council also agreed to forego action on the proposed change to the town’s zoning ordinance to remove hotels and motels from permitted uses in the B-3 zone, but add them as a permissive use in the B-2 zone. The alteration also would require all second story residential units in a B-3 zone to be single-family style apartments. All boarding room-style apartments would be prohibited on Main Street.

Whitaker said he did not want to cut off opportunities for a large hotel chain to build on Main Street. “If we have someone willing to invest in town, we need to work with them,” he said. But Whitaker also made clear the town needs to ensure that whatever is built does not detract from downtown aesthetics.

Michelle Wilson said she was particularly concerned about parking and did not want a large facility to be built on Main Street without providing for parking.

Jackson was also before Council to discuss a dispute with a property owner abutting his property at 126 West Second Street. Prior to Jackson owning the site on Second Street, Town Manager Dusty Forbes said there was an alley that ran between his building and the former Tastee Freez (now operating as Sundaes) building at 104 W. Second Street. At some point, the alley was unofficially abandoned.

By the time Jackson purchased his building, out of which he has operated The Pawn Shop for more than 20 years, a fence that encroached into the alley by about 15 feet had been erected between The Pawn Shop and Tastee Freeze. Jackson continued to maintain the fence and was never told of the encroachment.

Now that Jackson has a new tenant in the building, he is erecting a new fence to replace the existing one. This raised concerns from Cynthia Mohn and her husband George, who own Sundaes.

While they too have encroached into the alley, though to a lesser extent — the bumpers in the parking lot are located within the alley right of way — Mohn said it is only fair that the town give each business owner half of the alley area. This would require Jackson to remove his new fence and relocate it closer to his property at 126 West Second Street.

Forbes said the alley is about 20 feet wide, and under the Mohns’ request, each property owner would gain 10 feet.

Fahringer said there are several possible solutions: keep things as they are, have the town retake the alley and require both parties to eliminate the encroachment, or divide the alley in half, giving 10 feet to each landowner. Both parties are asking the town to abandon the alley, but there remains the question of whether the land should be given or sold to the property owners, Fahringer said.

Before recommending this matter be sent to the streets committee for review and a call be made to the town attorney, Whitaker noted, “We’re cleaning up another mess the town didn’t take care of.”

In other business, Council tabled a proposed amendment to the town zoning code that would have limited to 8 feet the height that items could be stored on property in a residential or business district.

Council member B.J. Mull questioned the impact this change would have on operations at Pallet One, a wood packaging business located within town limits.

Forbes replied that he had not thought about the company. The change was suggested after he received complaints about a business operated in a residential neighborhood that stacked pallets and other unsightly items in such as way that they towered above the fence line. This was both unsightly and unsafe, Forbes said.

Mull said the language could be limited to stacking items in residential areas, but Forbes was not convinced that would address the issue that was raised by residents. He agreed to rework the language.

Judith Johnson, a MacCallum More Museum and Gardens board member and owner of Buckhorn Creek Nursery near South Hill, asked Council to offer a letter of support for Chase City to become a “Tree City” as designated by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Johnson said this would open the opportunity for the gardens to receive grants from the foundation.

Mecklenburg County Tourism Director Tina Morgan has already issued a letter of support from the county.

No action was taken on her request after Johnson informed Council that it would take a limited financial commitment from the town, between $2,500 and $4,500 to cover expenses.

Council did agree to amend the zoning code to limit fence heights to 8 feet and to require a one-foot setback of any fence from any property line. This change aligns with the limits in the county zoning ordinance.

Public Works Superintendent Jim Wilson received authorization to work directly with Town Manager Forbes to address issues with the town’s wastewater treatment plant. The plant is taking in an excessive amount of stormwater and not enough solid waste to operate with DEQ guidelines. While Wilson investigates why the inflow of stormwater is so high, he and Forbes can reach out to solid waste haulers to have them dump their waste at the Chase City plant, without charge, on an as-needed basis.

Wilson said the revenue the town would lose from not charging for the wastewater would be less than the fine imposed by DEQ if the plant’s PKN levels (phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen) exceed allowable limits.

Forbes said the town is asking the Department of Housing and Community Development for permission to use leftover money from the Endly Street housing project to make stormwater and sewer repairs at the town garage.

Lake Country Satellite is working with Mid-Atlantic Broadband to install free Wi-Fi in the downtown area, between Colgate Square and Family Dollar. The project is being paid for with $125,000 in CARES Act money.

Forbes reached out to Mark Price (Mark’s Gutters) to replace gutters at the Robert E. Lee Building. He said the cost would be about $600 to $700. Forbes also received quotes to replace fencing at the airport and the community park. The price for new fencing at the airport, similar to the fence at Woodland Cemetery is $3,500 and the cost to replace the existing fence at the community park is $4,200.



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