Planners vote against boat yard proposal

Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Mar 20, 2019 - 01:18 PM

The Mathews County Planning Commission on Tuesday night voted 4-2 to recommend that the board of supervisors not approve a rezoning request made by the board itself for the East River Boat Yard.

In January, the board applied for a permit to rezone the county-owned property at the end of Mill Lane Road in Bohannon from waterfront residential to waterfront business. A joint public hearing was held, during which a number of Mill Lane Road and nearby residents objected to the rezoning, citing issues such as environmental impacts, noise and an access road that frequently floods. 

The supervisors’ application followed a request by Billy Hooper of Williams Wharf Oyster Company that he be allowed to use the parcel for his oyster aquaculture business. However, in seeking the zoning change, supervisors said that the change was not for the benefit of that particular business, but would be beneficial to the county for a variety of other by-right business uses that might be made of the property, including public recreation, water access and education.

Supervisors also reasoned that rezoning the parcel would be a zoning correction rather than a zoning change because of its historical uses, including fuel sales, dockage for watermen, and marine electronics service. Supervisors’ chairman G.C. Morrow said he believed that the parcel had been incorrectly designated residential when zoning went into effect in the 1980s. In addition, the parcel continues to be used by several watermen to offload their catch.

There are a number of challenges at the site, including the fact that it is a non-conforming lot of less than an acre, that the Resource Protection Area almost completely covers the parcel, and that it is entirely within the floodplain. Planning and Zoning Director Thomas Jenkins had recommended the zoning change, however, because most of the business uses that might be made of the property would be water-dependent uses that are allowed to be developed in the RPA.