Seaford Re-zoning requested to make way for elderly housing
By Tony E. Windsor
A local developer is seeking to bring life to a property that once housed a major Seaford manufacturing plant. Better Homes of Seaford, Inc., whose local projects include Chandler Heights and the Virginia Crest senior residential complex, are requesting to convert the former Kim Manufacturing building on Phillips Street to a 11-unit apartment complex for people 62 years of age and older.
Bill Roupp, president of Better Homes of Seaford attended the Tuesday, Dec. 12, meeting of Seaford Mayor and Council to request a variance so that the property be re-zoned from its current R-1 low-density zoning to an R-3 medium density zoning.
Seaford Building Official Charles Anderson said the largely residential area is already considered a "mixed-use area" with such businesses as Allen's Family Foods and Cranston's Funeral Home located nearby.
Anderson said when the re-zoning request came before Seaford's Planning and Zoning Board, there was a question about whether the parcel met requirements which stipulate that it must be a full acre of land in order to fit the R-3 zoning requirements. The property lacks about 160 square feet of being an acre. Therefore, it is necessary for Roupp to request a variance in order to be considered for the R-3 zoning.
The Planning and Zoning Board's recommendation was a split decision with two members abstaining from the vote and the four other members being split two for and two against.
Councilman Larry Miller said he was aware of concerns expressed at the Planning and Zoning Board's public hearing and shared a like concern. "What about the future? If later on you decide to sell this property and it is permitted R-3 zoning what could happen? Why not do this as a non-conforming use and in the event the owner sells it will revert back to its original zoning? Then we can make a decision based on the merits of the next project," he said.
Anderson said the council could work specific criteria into its approval of a variance, but it can not issue a "conditional variance."
City Manager Dolores Slatcher said that Kim Manufacturing was operating its business under non-conforming status, however once the business was abandoned for more than six months it reverted back to the property's original zone of R-1. The business has been vacated for about seven years. "That building could never be a single-family dwelling," she said. "The property will need some type of variance in order to become of use. It is no longer in a non-conforming use status, so in order to become a multi-family dwelling the variance is needed. If it is later sold and continues to be used as a multi-family dwelling, the (Planning and Zoning) Board can place certain stipulations."
Slatcher said the city's Code Department can also help assure that if in the future the property is sold by Better Homes of Seaford, the new owners maintain the property in a manner that is suitable to the city and the neighborhood. "That is our fallback," she said.
Mayor Dan Short reminded council that the issue on the table for its decision was the request to re-zone the property, not make decisions about its potential use. "This is a re-zoning request, not a site plan review. We need to confine our discussions to re-zoning," he said.
Slatcher added that should the council approve the re-zoning request, the developer will have to come back to the Planning and Zoning Board for another public hearing to discuss actual site plans. "This is when the city will look at such items as entrances and exits, storm water maintenance and code issues. We do not re-zone based on the issues of specific projects because projects come and go. We have to look at land use and what zoning is best for that area. This keeps us from planning for a project that may never happen," she said.
John Cranston, owner of Cranston's Funeral Home on Shipley Street, near the Kim Manufacturing site, offered words of support for the Better Homes of Seaford re-zoning request. "I personally wish there would be stipulations placed on the re-zoning, but I feel the council should approve the request," he said. "That building has been sitting there for seven or eight years and I have to look at it everyday. It is running the neighborhood down. I hope the city will give them (Better Homes of Seaford) a chance. I do not feel the neighborhood will suffer because it will certainly be better than what we have now."
John Copeland, a resident of Phillips Street agreed with Cranston's sentiments. "I think this is a good way to bring the neighborhood back up," he said. "This project could go a long way in making the neighborhood better as long as it is done tastefully."
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