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Wilt column: Resurrecting the B3 proposal

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Guest columnist J.R. Wilt is a Van Wyck resident who served on the ad hoc B3 Committee last spring.

Changes to the B3 commercial zoning classification are back on the table and many people are saying that the B3 proposal made by the ad hoc B3 Committee last spring should be brought back and adopted.
Unfortunately, many of the players have changed, and each of the new players has a different idea about how the proposal should be adapted to put a new stamp on it. The situation is thus degenerating into the same kind of argument that has characterized this issue for at least four years.
It therefore seems sensible to publish the B3 proposal as it was prepared for the Lancaster County Council presentation last spring. The people can then judge for themselves the efforts of their new players.
The issue with the B3 commercial zoning classification is that there are 89 permitted uses that vary widely from medical facilities to bars, taverns and night clubs. Once a property has been zoned B3, any of these uses can be implemented on the property without any further approval, irrespective of the uses of the surrounding property. This leads to conflicts and incompatible uses on adjacent properties.
After some abortive efforts by groups appointed by County Council over the years, the ad hoc B3 Committee formed itself as a group of concerned citizens to see what might be done about the situation in February 2012. This group adopted four main principles as follows:
1. The residents of an area should have a primary role in determining the zoning for that area. Thus, the group met in the Indian Land library, invited residents and developers from Indian Land to participate in its meetings and structured the proposal to cover the combined areas of the Pleasant Valley and Indian Land fire districts.
2. The right of existing property owners to continue to use their property as they have been doing is at least equal to the right of a property owner to do something different with his/her property.
3. The law should be structured to bring potential conflicts between proposed new and existing uses out before any substantial money has been spent. Residents should be encouraged to work these conflicts out among themselves, but the matters should be heard before a body with the authority to make decisions, if necessary.
4. The committee had no desire to restrict the ability of property owners to use their property; the effort was rather to bring out and resolve conflicts between property owners before substantial money was spent implementing one or another new use.
In looking at the situation, it appeared that many of the allowed uses in B3 were also allowed in other zoning classifications, including B1, B2, B4, I1 and I2. It also appeared that rezoning might provide the forum for bringing these potential conflicts out into the open, with the Planning Commission acting as the body with the authority to hear these matters and make decisions, if necessary. The committee therefore decided to determine whether B3 uses could be split off into other categories. These efforts are detailed in the B3 presentation. (Click here to see it: http://web2.lcni5.com/pages/pdfs/151/B3Presentation2013201.pdf)
This approach worked. We ended up with 10 allowed and 16 conditional uses in the new B3 classification, with all other previously allowed uses in zoning classifications B1, B2, B4, I1 or I2.
Unfortunately, there are another 30 conditional uses in the original B3, which were not included in the original work. The same logic was applied to these uses, farming them out to B1, B2, B4, I1 and I2, then combining them with the lists previously developed.
We ended up with 10 permitted uses and 21 conditional uses in the new B3, down from 89 permitted uses and 30 conditional uses in the original B3. This is a workable plan. It could be law in Indian Land in three council meetings.
Now, how about other places? There is no problem with this. I think myself that the other places should think and talk about it first, and I am more than willing to help in this by giving presentations, participating in meetings, etc. Send me an e-mail jrwilt@vanwyckpress.com – I’m glad to help.
One last thing – the B3 situation worked out so well that last spring the Planning Commission asked the ad hoc B3 Committee to develop a shopping center district and call it B5. This we did also; the results are in the same presentation.
Lastly, it should be clear that neither I nor Van Wyck Press have any monetary or business interest in this rezoning or anything else that is likely to come before County Council. Everything has been done at no cost to the county.