STRASBURG — The Strasburg Planning Commission discussed the potential for new multi-family resident buildings downtown at its meeting Tuesday night.

The discussion came after the town received an Oct. 14 letter from Barney Shaprio asking for an amendment to the Strasburg Unified Development Ordinance. The amendment seeks to allow multi-family buildings by right within community commercial zoned sites, which is primarily in the downtown area.

Multi-family buildings are defined by the town’s zoning ordinances as three or more units for rent in a building, Town Planning and Zoning Administrator Lee Pambid said.

The UDO allows multi-family buildings in community commercial sites either above commercial storefronts, by right, or ground-level residential units behind storefronts, through a special-use permit, or SUP, process, Pambid said. Multi-family buildings are also allowed as accessory dwellings by the SUP process.

The SUP process requires Planning Commission input and Town Council approval, whereas by-right approval can be done administratively.

There are a few multi-family buildings in town — located on North Fork Street, West King Street, East King Street and North Massanutten Street — with three to 10 units, for a total of 41, according to Planning Commission documents.

Any construction approved in the areas Shaprio is looking at would require approval from the town’s Architectural Review Board, which would examine aesthetic concerns, Pambid said.

Pambid said Shapiro has a piece of property in mind, but did not specify its location.

Planning Commission member Vince Poling questioned if Shaprio’s request is similar to the apartments that are allowed behind the old bowling alley on Fort Street.

Those apartments fall under the behind storefront requirement and were allowed by special-use permit as a way to preserve commercial space, said Councilwoman Emily Reynolds, who is the Town Council’s representative on the Planning Commission.

“We worked for a compromise there because we also understood the need for housing and how beneficial it can be to live downtown,” Reynolds said. “I lived on King Street at that time. It’s a really nice thing to be able to offer in your town.”

There are concerns over parking with downtown development sometimes, but the town has standards to address those, Reynolds added.

Reynolds’ explanation came after Planning Commission Robert Flanagan questioned why the multi-use buildings wouldn’t be allowed, as more people in an area generate more business.

“There are sections of King Street where there are no storefronts,” Flanagan said. “People bring businesses, they bring livelihood.”

Pambid said he generally agreed with that logic, as the town has been discussing its housing stock. Those discussions have included approvals for a 48-unit building.

Poling also questioned whether residences without storefronts should be included in commercial districts.

No decision on the proposal was made as it was initially discussed during the meeting.

The proposal comes as the Planning Commission has begun looking at revising how allowable uses for certain zoned properties are organized in the UDO. The commission and Town Council have also begun discussing entirely redoing the UDO to simplify it.

If the amendment could be allowed within a few months, there wouldn’t be an issue with Shaprio, Pambid said. But, if it took about a year, “that’s a different question,” and he likely wouldn’t apply for a UDO amendment to allow it, Pambid added.

“I think if we want to make it easier to provide a range of housing types, this is what Mr. Shapiro is asking the commission to consider,” Pambid said. “That ease of bringing a proposal to fruition.”

Pambid said Shapiro can be made available for next month’s meeting scheduled for Dec. 9.

Contact Charles Paullin at cpaullin@nvdaily.com