The first announcement at the Zoning Commission meeting on Monday, Sept. 17 was good news for Greensboro. Zoning Commission Chairman Eugene Lester said that because of the length of the agenda, with 11 items, they were going to restrict both sides to 10 minutes each, instead of the usual 15 minutes.
Having a long Zoning Commission agenda means people are building and developing land, which is a good sign for the economy. Developers don’t build houses unless they think people are going to buy them, and it appears that although the Publix distribution center is a few years down the road, it’s already having an effect with several rezoning requests in that area.
Greensboro has traditionally grown to the northwest, but with Publix moving to the eastern edge of the city, it appears that is going to spark more growth to the east. Actually, where Publix is going isn’t in Greensboro, but the land will be annexed.
The meeting began with an interesting rezoning request on Friendly Avenue at the intersection of Westover Terrace. As Michael Shiftan, one of the property owners said, the building has been commercial for as long as anyone could remember and the parking lot has been zoned residential.
Attorney Mike Fox with Tuggle Duggins, representing the property owners, said that nobody knew why, in 2010, when all the property in the city was rezoned, this lot that was being used as a parking lot for a multiunit commercial building had been left zoned R5 residential. But the law no longer allowed parking for a commercial establishment to be zoned residential, which made it a nonconforming use.
He also noted that because it was only the parking lot that was being rezoned and not the commercial buildings, which are zoned Commercial Medium, that no conditions could be placed on anything but the parking lot.
Fox said that the city staff had brought it to their attention that using the residential lot for commercial parking was out of compliance with the 2010 zoning ordinance and that there was no intention to use the lot for anything other than parking, but to bring it into compliance with the current zoning ordinance the property had to be rezoned.
Fox said, “We set up our request to make it the most innocuous request possible with the goal of just bringing the lot into compliance.” He said that was the reason the request was for Conditional District Commercial Low (CD-C-L), instead of commercial medium like the building, and they had conditioned the request to remove as many uses as possible.
A lot that is nonconforming is what most people call grandfathered, which means you can continue to use it but if you make significant changes the city requires the property be brought into compliance.
Shiftan said they had owned the property for over 30 years and had always tried to be good neighbors. He said as far as they could determine the lot had been used for parking since the 1950s but it might go back further than that.
Several members of the Westerwood neighborhood spoke against the rezoning request because they said the plan was to put a music venue into the building and they were concerned about people taking up the precious on-street parking in the neighborhood. Several noted that with over 100 people in the venue that they would not all be able to park in the 23-space parking lot.
Marsh Prause, speaking for the neighborhood, noted that because of the age of the homes in Westerwood, people have to park on the street. He also said that concern about the parking for a music venue might not be germane, since the issue before the Zoning Commission was limited to whether or not the parking lot should be rezoned. Prause commended those requesting the rezoning for the “great spirit of dialogue.”
Fox noted that the property owners would have to comply with the relevant parking ordinances based on the eventual use of the building.
The rezoning passed on a 7-to-0 vote with one recusal. So a parking lot that has been nonconforming since 2010 is now conforming.