By John L. Ross
Monday’s silence was so deafening the proverbial dropped pin could have been heard throughout Williamsburg City Hall.
The silence was in response to a public hearing so members of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission could hear citizen comments or concerns about several areas set to be rezoned.
Commission Chair Dr. David Williams opened the public hearing with an explanation of the rezoning procedure, including signage, proper public advertising, and letters to affected property owners.
“Fortunately, most all of the affected property owners have consented to the proposed changes,” Williams said.
In fact, some of those property owners were present Monday, but not to oppose the move. “We’re just here to say ‘Yes,’” one citizen said.
Most of the land involving this hearing will be rezoned to P/SP, or public, semi-public use. These zoning districts, according to the recently-approved Comprehensive Plan for the city of Williamsburg, are designed to accommodate the establishment of large governmental developments, such as public cemeteries, recreational areas, schools, colleges, and related activities.
As of Monday’s public hearing, only 25 acres of the city hold that zoning designation — the property housing Williamsburg Independent School, the city park near Ridge Avenue, and Detention Center Drive.
Once these changes take effect, likely after the April Williamsburg City Council meeting, then many more acres of the city will be changed to the P/SP designation, including the Kentucky Splash Waterpark (currently zoned agriculture 2, or A-2), the University of the Cumberlands, and the cemetery north of the city.
Some other areas, mostly along the southern part of Florence Avenue, will be rezoned from R-2 (residential, multi-family), to an R-1 (residential, single family), to make those properties conform to adjoining neighborhood properties.
An area west of North 11th Street between the cross streets of Hemlock and Curd Avenue, will change from R-1 to B-1 (neighborhood business). Also part of this particular zoning change is a small property at the intersection of Smith Lane and Red Bird Road, and an area around South 5th Street.
Two other significant areas of change will be rezoned from A-2 (agricultural, with buildings) to B-2 (Highway Business, shopping center). One section is along the north side of Hwy. 92 across from Walmart. The other is near the Cumberland Regional Mall.
During Monday’s hearing Williams twice asked for “any negative comments regarding” the proposed zoning changes, but no one spoke.
After 10 minutes, Williams closed the hearing. He then explained that much of the zoning changes were at the request of property owners.
“To me, I think the requested zoning change by all parties involved (is a) complete ‘yea’ vote for the zoning changes,” Williams said.
He added these changes will stay in line with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the 20-year growth plan revealed in November and unanimously approved at the last city council meeting. Mayor Roddy Harrison, who was also present at Monday’s public hearing, said at the last council meeting the Comprehensive Plan was a “working document” that could be changed as time goes on.
The Planning Commission met after the hearing to discuss further zoning updates to the city’s growth plan. All proposed zoning changes will keep in line with the plan.
Zoning Administrator Herschel Roberts was given the list of the next properties the commission seeks to update — those affected property owners and adjacent neighbors will be notified through letters, signage and public advertising as required by law. The public hearing for those properties is scheduled for 6-7 p.m. Monday, March 25 at city hall.
A final decision on Monday’s zoning changes, nor any potential March zoning changes, will be voted on “in one fell swoop” during the April meeting of the city council, according to Harrison.
Planning Commission members are the chair, Dr. David Williams, and members Georgia Robinson, Nannie Hayes, Denny Trickett and Paul Jackson. Jackson was unable to attend Monday’s event.