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Longtime Ridgetop business gains zoning support to add offices

Monday, November 18, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

Tomlinson’s Feed and Pet store near Airport Boulevard won support from the Planning Commission for construction of a new office space last week after finding a work-around to a slow-moving regulating plan.


Ron Thrower of Thrower Design said that his client was seeking a change from single-family to Community Commercial (GR) zoning in order to construct a 2,500 square-foot office.


The case had previously been postponed in May pending completion of the Airport Corridor Regulating Plan that will introduce form-based code to the area. Once implemented, the plan would allow construction of the office, but implementing that plan has taken longer than expected.


“To me, it seems like a no-brainer,” said Commissioner Stephen Oliver.


The zoning change at 4914 Bennett Avenue would allow for a 10-foot setback, and conditional overlays would limit the rest of the entitlements of GR zoning to Limited Office uses. Thrower explained that the reduced setback would allow them preserve two heritage trees in the back of the lot.


The commission voted unanimously to approve the requested zoning, with Commissioner Danette Chimenti absent.


“All we need is an LO use for this site,” said Thrower. “This is for Tomlinson’s. It’s a locally-owned business. They’ve been here since 1971. They expanded their facility in 1996. They expanded into multiple cities in the area, and they are now stepping on each other and need some office space.”


“It has always, always, always been my intention not to undermine what is going on with the Draft Airport Plan,” said Thrower. “This is not going to undermine that process at all… We are proposing uses that are directly aligned with the Draft Airport Plan. And we are asking for setbacks that are directly in alignment with the Draft Airport Plan.”


Thrower said that he had tried to have the site plan reviewed under the draft regulating plan, but staff said they were not able to do that.


Ridgetop Neighborhood Association President Penelope Doherty spoke in opposition to the zoning.


“We are a little unhappy to find ourselves here, again, opposing this (application) as it currently stands,” said Doherty. In the view of the neighborhood association GR zoning is “overly aggressive.”


“(The zoning) could easily result in detrimental impacts to the neighborhood character, and sets an undesirable precedent for other properties in the area,” said Doherty.


“However, we don’t want to fight the Tomlinson’s. This is what we’ve been saying all along. We don’t want to fight compatible businesses in out neighborhood at all,” said Doherty. “Ridgetop supports businesses… We’re looking for balance. Ridgetop neighborhoods are uniquely placed to demonstrate how the city’s vision for vitality and density along its corridors can be accomplished with sensitivity and balance to the adjacent neighborhoods. This should not be a zero-sum game.”


Doherty and other neighbors said that they remained open to trying to find a solution, but Thrower indicated that solutions to a lot of their concerns were already being addressed. “It’s been clear from the outset that we have agreed to conditions for LO uses only, and to be in direct compliance with the Draft Airport Boulevard Plan,” said Thrower. “I don’t know what else to say here. Again, I think that perhaps there has been some miscommunication going on here.”


Thrower said that he understood there was general resistance to commercial development in the “transition zone” where the store is located, saying, “If I can’t get past that, I’m not going to get past anything in getting support from the neighborhood.”


Jorge Rousselin, with the city’s Planning and Development Review Department and is one of the project managers of the plan, explained it is moving along, and currently on the fifth draft. That draft received more than 300 staff comments, which are currently being reviewed.


Rousselin said an “aggressive timeline moving forward,” he anticipated that the regulating plan would reach City Council in May or June of next year.

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