Ches. Inn parking lot rezoning hearing set for Mon.
— The public will once again have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed rezoning near the Chesapeake Inn restaurant that has raised controversy with some neighbors.
The town council, which holds the final say in the matter, will hold a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday on the petition to change the zoning of a parcel of land that holds the restaurant’s valet parking lot from traditional neighborhood development to village commercial. The council will hear testimony from the petitioner, Gianmarco Martuscelli, owner of the Chesapeake Inn, and his legal counsel, Dwight Thomey, as well as from members of the public at-large. The council does not have to respond to questions posed during the hearing and will make its determination on the request at a later meeting.
Unless it is rezoned to a commercial designation, the Chesapeake Inn cannot make changes to the existing lot, because it has essentially been grandfathered in under existing use provisions. Thomey has previously argued that the parcel was errantly zoned traditional neighborhood development, since the parking lot has existed for more than 16 years. He further noted that while the town created a village commercial zone in its comprehensive rezoning, they failed to map any parcel in the zone, arguing this was an error in the town’s plan.
Martuscelli said he intends to upgrade the longtime lot, including 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 on its busiest days.
While some have supported the claimed intentions of the request, others have expressed concern about the zoning level requested by Martuscelli.
After more than an hour of debate on the petition last month, the town’s planning and zoning commission ultimately voted to recommend denial, citing that a mistake had not been made in the zoning and no rezoning request had been put forward at the time of the 2012 plan.
The vote was not unanimous, however, as commission member Elaine Shephard said she felt the town had erred when the 15.45acre parcel off Second Street near Mt. Nebo Road, known as Chesapeake Village Lot 2, was zoned traditional neighborhood development. She noted that a parking lot had existed on the property for more than a decade when the comprehensive rezoning was done in 2012.
Most recently, a coalition of five former town officials submitted a letter to the town council, putting their support behind the town planning and zoning commission’s recommendation to deny the rezoning. That coalition argues that the zoning for the parcel, which was previously attached to another large parcel to its west and was part of an undeveloped neighborhood of single-family and town homes, was not a mistake at the time of the 2012 comprehensive rezoning.
“Village commercial designation belongs on the Route 213 corridor along with the general commercial desig- nation,” their letter reads. “The area of Chesapeake City known as Mount Nebo would not benefit from fast food with drive-throughs, hotels, motels, convention centers, resorts, dance halls, nightclubs, bowling alleys, skating rinks, indoor tennis and squash courts, billiard and pool halls, rifle and pistol ranges, cinema, movie theaters, or water or sewer treatments facilities — all permitted uses in village commercial.”
Like the planning and zoning commission, the former town officials are concerned about what the village commercial zoning allows even if Martuscelli does not plan to utilize the land for such purposes. A letter from Thomey to the town, however, said that a “boutique hotel” is a possible future development by the owner.
Meanwhile, Martuscelli recently told the Whig he feels the concerns over the rezoning request are premature.
“I know a lot of the council and the people in town want something nice for the town,” he said, noting a metered lot there would satisfy other complaints from residents about loud Inn patrons walking through town back to their cars. “I think people will eventually understand that it’s needed and there’s only so much land left in town.”
Martuscelli said he sympathizes with the neighboring residents’ concerns, but he reiterated that should anything be built on the land, such a proposal would have to appear before the planning and zoning commission, where the public would again have a chance to provide input.
“You can’t just start building something nowadays,” he said. “I don’t think planning and zoning would ever allow something that doesn’t address their concerns.”
The Chesapeake Inn is seeking to improve its current valet parking lot, seen here, with one that would eventually be self-pay.