Overzone possible for downtown Elizabethtown

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Planning Commission recomendation aims to help property owners

By Amber Coulter

A possible zoning change could address unique problems faced by property owners in downtown Elizabethtown.

The city’s planning commission is expected to propose to Elizabethtown City Council that a commercial transition overzone in the area be adopted. It would not change downtown zoning but would provide flexibility by allowing changes to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

A public hearing has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 13 in the council chambers on the second floor of City Hall. The idea will be explained and input collected about the plan, which impacts buildings along Dixie Avenue and Mulberry Street.

A notice to property owners went to about 70 residents on West Dixie Avenue from Miles Street to St. John Road and 60 on Mulberry Street from Poplar Street to Williams Street. A notice to owners near the affected area is expected to come this week.

The historic downtown includes residences and is zoned for commercial use, including converted homes. The city’s long-term plan calls for dealing with special issues faced in the older commercial district during a transition to more intense commercial uses, said Ed Poppe, the city’s planning and development director.

The most common problem is many of the lots are too small or narrow to meet modern requirements.

For instance, some downtown lots don’t have enough frontage on a street to meet requirements. Many, especially on Mulberry Street, don’t have enough space to provide adequate parking based on zoning standards.

Without flexibility, those challenges make it impossible to use many of the properties commercially. The city wants to be more business-friendly and acknowledge the challenges of downtown while maintaining standards for development and redevelopment, Poppe said.

“We’re dealing with folks trying to make something work,” he said.

Creating an overzone was the simplest of several options for addressing unique challenges faced by downtown property owners, Poppe said.

“We hope it is less confusing to the public, too,” he said.

It keeps the current zoning and its regulations while setting up a process by which owners can ask for flexibility regarding some regulations. They also can present plans that meet city approval and are possible for the owners to implement.

Waivers can be obtained for requirements that involved minimum lot frontages, parking reduction greater than half the required spaces, distance and location standards for entrances and landscaping requirements.

If the plan is accepted by the council, owners can apply for waivers by submitting an application and design plan to the Elizabethtown Planning Commission for approval.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.