Planning commission accepts Salem zoning changes
Board supports plan to reduce downtown core zoning district
The city Planning Commission accepted four ordinances pending before city council, including two dealing with reducing the footprint of the downtown core zoning district and being more restrictive on what types of businesses can go in the downtown.
The other two ordinances dealt with acceptance of two annexations and designating the zoning, with 2 acres at a residential property on North Lincoln set as RS-1 and 1.2 acress off of Benton Road for the rear parking lot area of Dollar General being C-2.
The action regarding the C-3 central commercial district in the downtown resulted in some questions from downtown building owner Jim Tanner, who wanted confirmation that the C-3 would be more restrictive and asked if there would be a variance procedure if a business wants to come in that doesn’t fit the permitted uses.
Planning and Zoning Officer Chip Hank said if something doesn’t fall under permitted uses, then it’s not permitted, but there are some types of businesses that would fall under conditional uses and require approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Tanner said there could be a business use with two or three different products or types of uses and felt there should be some type of variance for that.
Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who chairs the Rules & Ordinances Committee and spearheaded the zoning changes, said most of the designations for permitted uses are broad. If it’s retail, it’s not going to matter, retail is retail. She said they’re trying to get away from those type of businesses that could be detrimental, or noisy or smelly, to a neighboring business.
In her explanation of the ordinance, she noted that currently pretty much anything would be permitted in the downtown because the way the zoning is written. Instead of the downtown core being the most restrictive and then zones outside getting less restrictive, it’s the other way around in the city. She said they want to keep the downtown historic and walkable with businesses that compliment each other without the fear of what might go next door.
All businesses in the downtown now and even after the zone is shrunk down will be grandfathered, so the more restrictive list of permitted uses for the downtown will pertain to new businesses that come in after the ordinance becomes law.
Dickey suggested that if a business was coming into Tanner’s building, he would have to go to Hank to see if the usage fell under the guidelines.
According to the proposed ordinance, the list of permitted uses includes the following: bank/financial institution, shoe repair, appliance repair, bicycle repair, catering/bakery, public or private office building, dressmaker/tailor, spa or workout center, barber/beauty services, photography/art studio, messenger service, newspaper, laundry, dry cleaning receiving service, restaurant, private school, retail store (excluding the slaughtering of animals or poultry or commercial fish cleaning), indoor theater, billiards and arcade, business or professional school, print shop, paint store, tire sales and motor vehicle service, upholstering, dance or music academy, hotel, communications/broadcasting station or studio, drafting, watch or clockmaker, bar/tavern, wholesale establishment in a completely enclosed building, millinery, manufacture of hosiery or clothing, and wine and micro brewery open to the public for retail sale.
The list of conditional uses includes auto parking lot, auto parking garage, bowling alley, small scale manufacturing of optical and musical instruments of craftsman quality, small scale manufacture of toys, games, electrical and electronic apparatus of craftsman quality, the blending or bottling of products but not distilling and candy manufacturing.
Ginger Grilli, who said she was attending as a member of the Design Review Board, the Salem Historical Society and Salem Preservation, wanted to clarify that the new borders for the C-3 zone would not affect what’s on the National Historic Registry for downtown. Buildings which fall out of C-3 and into C-2 will remain on the National Historic Registry. She also commented that she hoped having the change would give potential for a review of what she tried to do a few years ago regarding the national historic district.
The proposal recommended for the new C-3 footprint shows a border of Sugartree Alley to the north, Lincoln Avenue to the east, Ellsworth Avenue to the west and East Pershing Street to the south with anything in between those borders included in C-3. The areas currently in C-3 that aren’t included in that proposed area would be folded into the C-2 commercial district.
For C-3, the current border to the north is the alley between Second and Third streets, to the west is Howard Avenue, to the south is Wilson Street and the alley near the post office and to the east is Lincoln Avenue.
For example, the Salem News building on North Lincoln is currently part of C-3. Under the proposal, the Salem News building would become part of C-2, which surrounds C-3 with the exception of a few residential spots and could be considered still part of the general downtown area, just not part of the core.
The zoning issues will come back to city council. They’ve already had first readings regarding the downtown, but require two more readings for approval.