Acres of city park land and open space within subdivisions would become subject to a new zoning for recreational areas

The Dover Planning Commission voted July 19 to recommend that city council proceed with a rezoning scheme that would designate 150 city properties as suitable for recreation and open space only.

In order to comply with its most recent Comprehensive Plan, the city had to create a special Recreation and Open Space zoning classification to be applied to properties already being used for those purposes, said Director of Planning and Inspections Ann Marie Townshend.

Most of the affected property is city parkland, but the ROS zone also applies to open space areas set aside in residential subdivisions as part of a development’s planning approval requirements.

Townshend said last month the city sent out roughly 3,000 public notices to residents within 200 feet of properties to be rezoned, then her office spent the ensuing days fielding hundreds of questions from concerned citizens.

At the commission’s hearing on the plan, dozens of residents packed the chamber and came forward to have their lingering concerns addressed in a relatively informal public comment session.

“The big question we have gotten is, ‘What are they going to build?’ The intention is not to build anything,” Townshend said.

Commission chair John Friedman attempted to put the assembled public at ease by explaining that since the ROS zone applies to lands that currently are designated for recreational use or as open space, virtually nothing will change apart from the way the properties are labeled by the city.

“Really what we’re doing is rezoning what’s already open,” he said.

But that doesn’t mean there can never be any development on land zoned ROS.

A list of “permitted uses” associated with the ROS zone includes recreation centers, golf courses, country clubs and the clubhouses and other buildings that go with them.

The zoning also permits so-called Residential Lifestyle Communities as a conditional use, which must be approved on a case-by-case basis by the commission.

These communities, typically associated with golf courses or country clubs, can include garden apartments built on ROS land to a maximum density of one unit per acre, so long as 75% of the land remains open space.

“It doesn’t really change what could happen. It underscores recreation and open space as the use,” Townshend said. “If anything, it restricts.”

Two private properties slated for ROS zoning were pulled out of the mass rezoning at the request of their owners: a small slice of land in the Woodbrook development on South Governors Avenue and Maple Dale County Club.

In letters to the city, the owners said they wanted time to see how the rezoning would affect their properties.

The commission said it will give them that time, but they will be brought back for ROS consideration in the future.


In other business…

The commission approved plans for a new Chick-Fil-A drive-in restaurant in what is now the parking lot of the Dover Lowe’s store. The restaurant’s developer also owns the Chick-Fil-A in the Dover Mall and confirmed that location will not close when the new one opens.

Citing lingering concerns about access to the site and traffic, the commission postponed action on a proposed 48-unit condominium project called The Arbors on College Road just west of McKee Road. Area residents also spoke out against developer Jordan Ashburn’s project, arguing that the building won’t match the character of the single-family-home neighborhoods nearby.

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