Planners support new use of college-owned house
CHESTERTOWN — Taking what he described as a “second bite” at an opportunity to create studio art space for faculty members, Washington College’s construction project manager appeared before the Chestertown Planning Commission on Jan. 17 asking for conditional use of a college-owned residence as office space.
Reid Raudenbush made a similar plea last May and received support from the planners, who by unanimous vote made a positive recommendation to the Zoning Board of Appeals that the college be given conditional use for property at 305 Washington Ave.
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 3-0 in September to deny the application.
Raudenbush came back last month with an amended plan that capped the request at three years. The other significant change is in the group that would use the building — six members of the college’s Information Technology department.
By unanimous vote, the planning commission sent the revised application to the Zoning Board of Appeals with a positive recommendation.
The Board of Appeals will consider the application at its Feb. 8 meeting; the meeting begins at 4 p.m. and the use of 305 Washington Ave. is the only agenda item.
The original plan was to move a handful of staff members in the college’s human resources office who were working out of the college-owned property at 500 Washington Ave.
The property at 305 Washington Ave., which is located directly across the street from the campus’ front lawn, is zoned R2 single-family residential. It includes a twostory, 2,000-square-foot building.
Currently the building is unoccupied.
Raudenbush said he believed that the amended proposal addressed the primary concerns the Zoning Board of Appeals had last year — parking, foot traffic and duration of the conditional use. In general he described the proposed new use for the building as less intensive and told the planners that the IT staff “receive no visitors at all.”
Currently, they are housed in college-owned property at 508 Washington Ave., the building between the NAPA Auto Parts store and the Blue Bird Tavern.
The plan as rolled out by Raudenbush would include repurposing 508 Washington Ave. for faculty studio space. The number of people using the building would decrease from six to two.
“We’re very hopeful in the next three years that we can build ourselves out of this space problem,” Raudenbush said.
Construction has begun on a new boathouse, part of an expanded riverfront campus that will include an environmental hall that will house the Center for Environment & Society, as well as offer classroom, office and lab space. Also planned is the second phase of the Cromwell Building at 215 Washington Ave.
The college also is looking at buying or leasing other properties so that after three years the hope is it would no longer need to use 305 Washington Ave. as office space, Raudenbush said.
He said space became an issue in August 2015 after a four-alarm fire destroyed most of a rented building at 515 Washington Ave., displacing the college’s busi- ness office and IT staff.
Since then the college has been “hopscotching them around campus,” Raudenbush said.
The college was successful in getting the properties at 307 and 309 Washington Ave. rezoned Institutional. Those buildings now house the entire advancement staff, “which solved a very big problem for us,” he said.
In answering a question asked by the planning commission, Raudenbush said some neighbors have objected to the non-residential use of the properties at 307 and 309 Washington Ave.
Three neighbors attended the Jan. 17 planning commission meeting, but did not speak.
The underlying zoning doesn’t change with a conditional use, which means the property remains residential and on the town’s tax rolls.
The college owns the properties on both sides of 305 Washington Ave. There is an alley in the back, which is adjacent to the home at 100 E. Campus Ave. that is owned by the Massey family.
There would be six parking spots designated for faculty/ staff in the college-owned lot nearby on Brown Street. That lot is by permit only, with a student or faculty hang tag.
Reid Raudenbush, construction project manager for Washington College, rolls out the plan for 305 Washington Ave. during the Chestertown Planning Commission meeting Jan. 17. From left are planning commission Chairman Jeff Grotsky, Zoning Administrator Kees de Mooy, and commission members David Bowering and Robert Fordi.