Planning Commission advances changes to development ordinance

The Strasburg Planning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to edit parts of the Strasburg Unified Development Ordinance, moving the proposed changes forward to a vote by the Strasburg Town Council. The council will decide whether to establish a parking district in downtown Strasburg where landowners can request an exemption from off-street parking regulations.

Wyatt Pearson, Strasburg Town Manager, said the changes could allow Strasburg to have a more densely packed downtown. In a downtown with more density, landowners might struggle to meet the current requirements for off-street parking, Pearson said.

Currently, under the Strasburg Unified Development Ordinance, landowners have few routes available for providing off-street parking. A landowner can have off-street parking on a lot they own or on a lot that restricts off-street parking to their building.

The proposed changes, if enacted, would allow landowners within a new downtown parking overlay district to apply for an exemption from off-street parking regulations.

While the Planning Commission moved the plan forward, Pearson and others expressed concern about how many people might wind up requesting exemptions to current parking restrictions.

“The abuse of this exemption could create a parking issue in the downtown, without a doubt,” Pearson said.

However, Pearson suggested that the benefits would outweigh the costs.

“[Having too little parking is] a better problem than not getting people downtown,” Pearson said.

Pearson said he modeled the proposed parking district after a similar district in Woodstock.

The Planning Commission also agreed to allow for bed and breakfasts in the downtown “community commercial district.” Currently, hotels and motels are allowed in the district with a special use permit. But bed and breakfasts are not allowed under the current draft of the Unified Development Order, something Pearson sees as a flaw in the original document that passed in 2014.

“It probably just got left out as one of the many UDO changes or the many issues that were apparent when they wrote the UDO,” Pearson said.

Under the proposed changes, bed and breakfasts would be allowed in the Unified Development Ordinance without a special use permit.

The changes to the regulations surrounding bed and breakfasts come as a result of plans by Armand and Lauren Mancini to turn the Crabill House at 112 East King St. into a bed and breakfast. The couple is currently closing on the house and is hoping to open the bed and breakfast in July.