Ches. Inn owner seeks to im­prove park­ing lot

Neigh­bors con­cerned about zon­ing re­quest

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— The owner of the Ch­e­sa­peake Inn is seek­ing a zon­ing change that will al­low him to im­prove the restau­rant’s ex­ist­ing park­ing lot off Sec­ond Street, but the re­quest is rais­ing con­cerns of nearby neigh­bors.

On Wed­nes­day night, the Ch­e­sa­peake Inn’s owner Gian­marco Mar­tus­celli and

CH­E­SA­PEAKE CITY

his Elk­ton-based coun­sel, Dwight Thomey, pre­sented a re­quest for re­zon­ing for a 15.45-acre par­cel known as Lot 2 Ch­e­sa­peake Vil­lage to the Ch­e­sa­peake City Plan­ning and Zon­ing Com­mis­sion, the first step of amend­ing the zon­ing. The prop­erty is cur­rently zoned tra­di­tional neigh­bor­hood devel­op­ment, but Mar­tus­celli is seek­ing vil­lage com­mer­cial zon­ing. Un­less it is re­zoned to a com­mer­cial des­ig­na­tion, the busi­ness can­not make changes to the ex­ist­ing lot, since it has es­sen­tially been grand­fa­thered in un­der ex­ist­ing use pro­vi­sions.

The land is ques­tion in­cludes a roughly 200-space gravel and grass park­ing lot that the Ch­e­sa­peake Inn has used for its valet ser­vices since at least 1997. At is­sue is the fact that de­spite its his­toric com­mer­cial use, when the town ap­proved its 2012 Com­pre­hen­sive Plan, the par­cel re­mained in a res­i­den­tial zon­ing.

“We be­lieve it was a mis­take to not zone this part of the prop­erty vil­lage com­mer­cial, be­cause it was

al­ready be­ing used for that pur­pose,” Thomey rea­soned. “It re­ally didn’t make sense to try to move the res­i­den­tial por­tion of the town across (the wet­lands) into this area. This works OK for valet park­ing, but to try to put a road in for a com­mu­nity prob­a­bly wouldn’t work very well.”

Thomey also ar­gued that while the town cre­ated a new zon­ing def­i­ni­tion in its 2012 Com­pre­hen­sive Plan, it did not ap­ply the zon­ing to any par­cel in town, cre­at­ing fur­ther ev­i­dence of a mis­take by the town.

“We be­lieve this was a se­ri­ous mis­take from the town’s stand­point be­cause the only way you’re go­ing to solve your park­ing prob­lems is to ac­tu­ally have some lots in town,” he added.

Mar­tus­celli’s plans for the lot in­clude pos­si­bly paving it, in­stalling lights for safety, adding land­scap­ing and stormwa­ter man­age­ment prac­tices, and cre­at­ing a two-way road into the lot off Sec­ond Street uti­liz­ing the cur­rent path. The even­tual goal would be to al­low pa­trons to the Ch­e­sa­peake Inn to park in the lot them­selves and pay a me­ter to leave, al­low­ing Mar­tus­celli to de­crease his num­ber of valets and cre­ate a bet­ter flow of traf­fic in the con­gested area. He es­ti­mated that 500 to 600 cars use the lot all day on its busiest days.

Com­mis­sion mem­ber Elaine Shep­ard asked whether Mar­tus­celli planned to open such a lot up to any vis­i­tor to the tour- ist town.

“We would want to part­ner with the town to open it up to more than just our pa­trons,” he replied.

In at­ten­dance at Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing were more than a dozen nearby res­i­dents, mostly those who live on Mt. Nebo Road, which doesn’t lie in town lim­its but use town roads. Among the con­cerns voiced by the home­own­ers were in­creased traf­fic and light pol­lu­tion, but more so the pos­si­bil­ity of fur­ther com­mer­cial devel­op­ment on the much larger par­cel than just the 2-acre park­ing lot.

Sev­eral res­i­dents voiced con­cerns about a ho­tel be­ing built on the lot, but the sug­ges­tion only drew con­fu­sion from Mar­tus­celli.

“I’m not in the ho­tel busi­ness,” he said. “I think it’s the cart be­fore the horse.”

Mar­tus­celli, Thomey and mem­bers of the com­mis­sion all em­pha­sized that ap­proval of zon­ing change is just the first step in the process and if fu­ture devel­op­ment were to be pro­posed, such projects would have to go through the ap­proval process as well.

Mt. Nebo res­i­dent Bill Camp­bell, who said he has en­joyed a friendly re­la­tion­ship with Mar­tus­celli over the years, told the com­mis- sion that he just doesn’t want to see a dras­tic change to the area.

“I don’t be­grudge the guy his busi­ness, I re­ally don’t, but I don’t want it to be at the in­con­ve­nience of me,” he said. “If there is no (vil­lage com­mer­cial) zon­ing in town, then why does he have to be?”

The plan­ning com­mis­sion is sched­uled to con­sider the re­zon­ing re­quest at its Novem­ber meet­ing. Af­ter mak­ing its rec­om­men­da­tion, the Ch­e­sa­peake City Town Coun­cil would con­sider the re­quest where it is not bound by the com­mis­sion’s rec­om­men­da­tion.

MAP COUR­TESY OF GOOGLE

The Ch­e­sa­peake Inn is seek­ing to im­prove its cur­rent valet park­ing lot, seen here, with one that would even­tu­ally be self-pay.

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