Ches. Inn park­ing lot re­zon­ing hear­ing set for Mon.

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— 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.

CH­E­SA­PEAKE CITY

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.”

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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