CEDAR POINT — Town commissioners have set Tuesday, Aug. 27 as the date for a public hearing on a controversial request to rezone a 1.2-acre tract at the intersection of Highway 24 and Dolphin Bay Estates Road from residential to business.

The board voted 3-0 during its monthly meeting Tuesday in town hall off Sherwood Avenue to set the hearing on the request by property owner Craig Hill. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in town hall.

Commissioner Pam Castellano was absent Tuesday.

The town planning board, during its meeting July 2, voted unanimously to recommend commissioners approve the rezoning despite all members expressing sympathy for residents who showed up to oppose Mr. Hill’s request.

The property owner at that time said he had no immediate plans for the land, but wanted the general business (B-1) zoning to make it more valuable for sale.

More than 20 Dolphin Bay Estates residents at that meeting expressed strong opposition, because, they said, a business instead of a residence – the property is zoned R-20 (residential, minimum lot size 20,000 square feet) – would hurt property values, increase traffic in the neighborhood and result in more pollution-laden runoff.

During the commission meeting Tuesday night, Crystal Coast Waterkeeper Larry Baldwin, speaking during public comment, also expressed concern about the effect business zoning might have on water quality in nearby canals.

Stormwater runoff can “have devastating impacts on small canals,” which don’t flush as well as larger streams, he said.

Mr. Baldwin noted the White Oak River, to which the canals connect, is also somewhat impaired, and said his nonprofit organization and others have been working for years to try to improve water quality and bring back marine organisms, such as oysters.

“My concern is that water quality, even though there’s not a specific plan (for the property), would be impacted,” he said.

Mr. Baldwin said he’s not “against anyone making money” and also commended the town for its efforts to protect and enhance water quality, most recently by buying more than 50 acres of land along the river, off Masonic Avenue, for a natural area and passive recreation park. He also offered his knowledge and expertise to the town.

Mayor Scott Hatsell said the town remains committed to protecting water quality and the board “always looks” at water quality impacts before making any decisions.

“We will definitely look at that” when considering the rezoning request, the mayor said. “It’s very important to us.”

After the planning board’s unanimous vote July 2, Vice Chairman TJ Williams said the board had little choice but to recommend the rezoning, since it is supported by the town land-use plan and is in an area identified as suitable for commercial development, as is almost all of Highway 24 through town.

But, Mr. Williams added, “There’s not a one of us on this board that doesn’t agree with everything you’re (the residents) saying.”

 All other planning board members expressed similar sentiments.

While only two Dolphin Bay Estates residents were at the meeting Tuesday night, they said at the planning board meeting they’d be present in full force at the public hearing.

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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