CEDAR POINT — Despite opposition from more than 20 nearby residents in attendance, the planning board Tuesday night recommended town commissioners approve rezoning a 1.2-acre tract at the intersection of Highway 24 and Dolphin Bay Estates Road from residential to business.
The board, which met in town hall off Sherwood Avenue, voted 4-0 in favor of rezoning the property from R-20 (residential, minimum lot size 20,000 square feet) to B-1 (general business), despite all four voting members and non-voting Vice Chairperson T.J. Williams expressing concerns about the proposed new zoning’s effects on the Dolphin Bay neighborhood. The proposal by Craig Hill will now go to commissioners.
Mr. Williams presided over the meeting in the absence in Chairperson Jennifer Heironimus.
After the vote, he said the board had little choice but to recommend the rezoning, since it was supported by the town land-use plan and the property 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.
“When you’re talking about traffic, you’re preaching to the choir. When you talk about pollution (of canals in the neighborhood), you’re preaching to the choir,” he said.
As a resident of the town, Mr. Williams added, “I appreciate everybody showing up, and I hope you show up for the board of commissioners meeting” when the rezoning comes up for a vote.
Earlier in the meeting, one of the residents, Amber Smith, voiced those concerns, as did others.
“We’d rather not have a business at the entrance to our neighborhood,” she said. “This (is) not meant for business. It should be (residential) or left vacant.”
She cited potential traffic, noise, increased crime, effects on wildlife, decreased property values and declines in water quality as negative impacts.
Resident Michael Shuchor agreed.
“We don’t feel it would benefit our community or the community of Cedar Point,” he said to the planning board. “I don’t think any of you would want this. … The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
By the few, Mr. Shuchor meant property owner Craig Hill, who was in audience and spoke briefly, saying that he didn’t have any plans for the property, but wanted to rezone it for higher sale value.
“I have no intentions of putting anything on it at this time,” he said.
In his application for the rezoning, Mr. Hill stated it would “be a service to the community” and would “bring in more business and people.”
Dolphin Bay Estates residents countered that there is plenty more property available for businesses along Highway 24, and traffic is so bad already they have trouble getting out of their tightly-knit neighborhood of about 20 homes.
Before the vote, planning board member Paul Garavaglia said he understood, but noted change is inevitable and town officials can’t tell property owners what they can sell their land for.
“(Highway) 24 is 24,” he said. “We’re a tourist town. We can’t help that.”
He promised if the property is rezoned and a business plan comes before the planning board in the future, “We will look at how the traffic flows and how the water (stormwater runoff) flows (into the canals).”
Board member Josh Reilly said because of the town land-use plan, which encourages and envisions commercial development along the highway, “It’s hard to say ‘no’” to business zoning there.
Member Larry Bragg agreed.
“I understand where you’re coming from,” he said to the residents. “From an emotional standpoint, I know how I feel.”
What the board has to do, he said, based on rules and regulations, often “doesn’t fit with our emotions.”
“I’ve lived here for 20 years,” Mr. Williams added, and when he arrived, “Highway 24 was a two-lane road ... Stuff is changing. Traffic is bad, and that’s not going to change. It’s going to get worse because of Emerald Isle. We wouldn’t have this problem if it was not for Emerald Isle.”
Mr. Williams, like Mr. Garavaglia, said the planning board and town commissioners would do their best under the town’s rules to limit the impacts of any business that might be built on the property if it’s rezoned.
“But,” he added, “We don’t get to pick and choose what businesses come to town.”
Dolphin Bay Estates residents said Tuesday night they’d be back for the town commission’s required public hearing on the rezoning request, whenever it’s scheduled.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.