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Town, developer will attempt to settle

by Tom Chillemi

Condominium developer Potomac Timber Investments and the Urbanna Town Council will attempt to settle a $4 million lawsuit and a zoning appeal by June 29, said attorneys for both parties on Tuesday evening.

John Easter, attorney for Potomac Timber, told the Urbanna Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) that he and his clients met with town council attorney Andy Bury earlier on Tuesday to discuss “trying to resolve the overall situation, not just the issue that is in front of you, but the issue that is in circuit court.

“We made some proposals that hopefully will be discussed” by town council, said Easter who asked that Potomac Timber’s zoning appeal be continued for up to 30 days to give both parties time to try and work out their legal problems.

Easter waived the 60-day deadline to act. A unanimous BZA agreed and will meet again on Monday, June 29, at 7 p.m. to make a decision if necessary. The BZA is composed of chair J.D. Magness, Martha Lowe, Martha Heric, Lewis Smith and Bill Hight.

The BZA appeal stems from a site plan rejection by Urbanna Town Administrator Lewis Filling.

On March 27, Potomac Timber filed a town zoning permit application to remove and replace docks, fuel tanks and replace 263 linear feet of bulkhead at Urbanna Yachting Center.

On April 14, Filling sent a response outlining how Potomac Timber’s plans did not meet the town zoning code.

Potomac Timber appealed that decision to the BZA.

During the BZA hearing on May 26, Potomac Timber attorney John Easter said the marina has a state permit to expand from 88 slips to 104 slips.

Easter told the BZA there were five issues raised by Filling’s letter that he disagreed with.

Filling’s letter stated, among other things, that Potomac Timber’s site plan was inadequate, it did not meet environmental regulations, and the plan did not have enough parking, said Easter.

Easter also told the BZA that Filling’s rejection letter claimed the southern boathouse (the one closer to the bridge) was in the Urbanna Historic District and needed a demolition permit from the Historic and Architectural Review Board.

Finally, said Easter, Filling’s letter stated the town would not act on the marina application until a court rules on pending litigation filed by Potomac Timber against the town regarding 14 proposed condos at the same 1.5-acre site.

Easter claimed the town zoning ordinance does not require a site plan for a by-right use as a marina. He said the section of the town code refers to site plans for “residential” planned unit developments.

Bury, attorney for the town government, said that the site plan requirement is not limited to residential zones.

Bury also disagreed with Easter’s interpretation of the ordinance regarding the site plan requirement. He said that if 2,500 square feet of land is disturbed, then a site plan is required.
In addition to the dock replacement, Potomac Timber plans to install 263 feet of bulkhead, and remove old fuel tanks and install new ones.

During the BZA discussion on May 26, board members noted the site plan did not delineate in feet the area of land that would be disturbed.

Easter said that if the fuel tanks were causing a problem they could be deleted from the plan and the marina would not sell fuel. (Currently, this marina is the only one on Urbanna Creek that sells boat fuel.)

The existing fuel tanks could remain in-ground and filled with a cement-like mixture, said Easter.

Regarding insufficient parking, Easter told the BZA that the zoning ordinance requires one parking space “per 300 square feet,” but does not state on what the square footage is based. “Standards are being applied here that have never been required before,” Easter said.

Bury countered that the town has an interest in seeing that this property is not “overdeveloped.”

Filling’s letter said the proposed marina would need 233 parking spaces.

Easter claims that parking requirements do not apply to the 88 original slips that he said are “grandfathered.”

Bury said Filling considered the gross square footage of the marina to determine the number of parking spaces.

Easter noted that an April 2008 letter from Filling said 52 spaces would be needed at the marina.

Bury explained that the 2008 letter was part of settlement negotiations and was irrelevant.

Easter said the southern boathouse is not in the town’s historic district because the district ends at the water line, according to the town map.

With regard to Filling’s letter saying no action will be taken until the court case is settled, Easter said the condo special use permit application has “no bearing” on a right that is permitted for the marina.

In April, Middlesex Circuit Court Judge William Shaw III ruled that Potomac Timber’s September 2008 lawsuit could proceed. No evidence has been presented in the lawsuit.

posted 06.03.2009

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