East River Boat Yard rezoning on Tuesday’s agenda

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Mar 13, 2019 - 01:45 PM

Photo: The Mathews County Planning Commission is expected to consider a proposal to rezone the county-owned East River Boat Yard, located at the end of Mill Lane in Bohannon, during Tuesday night’s meeting. Photo by Elsa Verbyla

The Mathews County Planning Commission is expected to consider a proposal to rezone the county-owned East River Boat Yard, located at the end of Mill Lane in Bohannon, during Tuesday night’s meeting. Photo by Elsa Verbyla

The Mathews County Planning Commission is expected to decide whether to support a proposed rezoning of the county-owned East River Boat Yard at its March meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the historic courthouse on Court Street. The boat yard is located at the end of Mill Lane, Bohannon.

The rezoning request was made by the Mathews County Board of Supervisors during the commission’s January meeting. Supervisors voted to consider rezoning the site from residential waterfront to business waterfront in December after receiving a request from Billy Hooper of the Williams Wharf Oyster Company asking that he be granted a seven-year lease in order to develop the publicly-owned site for use as an oyster hatchery.

Supervisors decided that the rezoning would be beneficial in order to allow the site to be considered for any of the by-right uses in the B-1 district except those that are denied in a proffer statement. Any conditional uses proposed for the site would require an application and approval.

During the February meeting, planner James Knighton told commission members that the boat yard needs rezoning because it’s currently a legal non-conforming use that has over the years allowed various business uses, including the unloading of commercial catch. He said that the parcel was originally developed as a commercial site, that it’s more suitable for business than residential use because of its small size and proximity to the water, and that the comprehensive plan designates it as waterfront business, specifically citing public recreation and water access, aquaculture, and education.

According to the application, the Resource Protection Area almost completely covers the site, and the site is entirely within the 100-year floodplain.

Supervisors’ chairman G.C. Morrow, who serves the board’s liaison to the planning commission, characterized the request as a “zoning correction” rather than a zoning change, since the parcel has long been used for business purposes.

Planning commission chair Beth Davis questioned whether zoning the parcel business when it’s surrounded entirely by residential parcels would constitute spot zoning. She had previously asked Planning and Zoning Director Thomas Jenkins to ask the county attorney if that would be the case, but Jenkins said he had not done that.

Hooper had proposed repairing and maintaining an old building on the site and setting up on-site cold storage in it. Jenkins told the commission that if such improvements increased the value of the building by $6,500, the structure would have to be relocated above mean low water.

Commission member Bill Rollins asked whether county uses for the site, such as a pier, park, and portable toilet, would require a rezoning to B-1, and Jenkins said that most such uses are in the B-1 zone.

A number of residents in the vicinity wrote emails objecting to the rezoning request, citing a negative effect on property values, the small size of Mill Lane, frequent flooding of the road and the site, and the county’s stated intentions when it acquired the site of using it for public access and recreational purposes, both of which are allowed under the current zoning.

“There is no advantage in rezoning ERBY from R-1 to B-1,” said adjacent property owner Eric Engler in an email, “but there is an immediate disadvantage to the county and the residents on Mill Lane and Mill Creek … Allowing future commercial activity at the end of a narrow 1/3-mile lane will impact property values … and lower values will reduce real estate tax revenue.”