Ches. Inn owner seeks to improve parking lot
Neighbors concerned about zoning request
— 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
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.
The Chesapeake Inn is seeking to improve its current valet parking lot, seen here, with one that would eventually be self-pay.