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Clarksville warehouse project clears hurdle with permit vote / December 20, 2017

Members of the Clarksville Town Council issued a special use permit for the Planter’s Warehouse redevelopment project on Thursday night, clearing one more hurdle in the future renovation and reuse of the century-old building.

The lone “no” vote was cast by Council member Glenn Jurczyk, who cited objections to the property rezoning and the process used to grant the permit. Council member Kristy Somerville-Midget was absent from the meeting. The rest of Council backed the permit request.

The warehouse at 610 Virginia Avenue once served as home of one of the oldest continuously existing tobacco warehouses in the country. Waukeshaw Development, a Petersburg firm headed by Dave McCormack, is proposing to restore the structure for mixed commercial and residential use.

McCormack specializes in restoring dilapidated historic structures, drawing on a combination of grants and historic tax credits to finance commercial projects.

According to Town Planning Commission chairman Steve Herman, the Planters Warehouse project required the issuance of a special use permit due to two specific areas that did not meet current requirements for a B2 business zone.

As envisioned under McCormack’s plan, the dilapidated Planters building will include 27 apartments and street-level commercial space. However, the required lot size for complexes with 11 or more apartments, under Clarksville’s B2 zoning, is at least two acres. Herman noted that the lot is oddly shaped, making it difficult to get a good estimate of its size, but he said it appears to be about 1.5 acres.

The other issue involved the number of parking spaces available on site for tenants and customers. Current zoning rules call for two parking spaces for each residential unit and one space for every four seats in the commercial area. The size and configuration of the current lot will not accommodate the total number of parking spaces required by code; the design is seven spaces short.

Herman said he and Town Manager Jeff Jones have discussed various options with McCormack for addressing the shortfall. Since 25 of the 27 apartment units are one bedroom, McCormack agreed that the best solution was to limit seven of the 25 units to one vehicle and one parking space.

Mike Chandler, a zoning and land use expert who has been working with the town to rewrite and update the zoning code, told Herman and Jones that the town’s special use permit process enabled the Commission and Town Council to impose special conditions while maintaining the base principals of the ordinance.

Herman said the property zoning would remain B2, but as long as McCormack was the developer or owner of the property, he could improve it consistent with the approved non-conforming conditions — smaller lot size and fewer parking spaces.

The town is under no obligation to rezone the property, and in fact, Chandler cautioned against rezoning.

Despite this explanation, Jurczyk repeatedly demanded the town rezone the property as either a C7 or C9 commercial zone. However, the request appeared to confuse members of the planning commission and Council, since the town’s zoning ordinance does not contain any “C” designations, or for that matter any zoning with numbers 7 or 9 in them.

When Herman attempted to explain this to Jurczyk, he was shouted down by Jurczyk.

Jurczyk also insisted that the process used by the town to grant the special use permit was contrary to the town’s ordinance. He said the matter should instead be heard by the board of zoning appeals. Again, when Herman and Jones attempted to explain that the property was not being rezoned and that the BZA was not authorized to issue a special use permit — that authority rests with Council — Jurczyk talked over them.

In the end, Council members Mike Sizemore, Carolyn Hite, Bruce Woerner and Chris Clark voted to grant the special exception permit. When asked initially if he opposed the issuance of the permit, Jurczyk sat mute, until prodded by Mayor Kevin Allgood to announce his vote. Jurczyk responded by saying he was opposed.

Immediately after the meeting he pushed through the audience and out the door, without further comment.

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