Zoning request on hold during examination of ‘future study area’

MORGANTOWN — A request to have 18 parcels on the corner of Jones Avenue and Stewart Street rezoned was put on pause Thursday, pending a closer look at the general area in which the parcels are located — identified in the city’s 2013 Comprehensive Plan as Future Study Area No. 5.

The comprehensive plan describes future study areas as places where further examination is needed, whether because existing zoning doesn’t align with existing land uses or existing zoning is not compatible with or does not fully support the desired future of the area.

Future Study Area No. 5 is defined generally as: Stewart Street and Highland Avenue, adjoining the Wiles Hill and Highland Park Neighborhoods.

The issue first came to light during the January meeting of the Morgantown Planning Commission, when Gregg Metheny, representing Scott Properties, requested the parcels be rezoned from R-2 (single and two-family residential) to R-3 (multi-family residential).

A number of residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the parcels spoke in opposition, noting that because the parcels fall within one of the 18 Areas for Future Study identified in the Comprehensive Plan, the commission should conduct the study before moving on a zoning change that could substantially impact the area.

That’s ultimately what occurred.

City Planner and Development Services Director Chris Fletcher presented a plan on Thursday that lays out a seven-month timeline for the study process, which would begin the second week of March.

“There are several tasks, including two community forums and interviews with stakeholders, with the objective to bring to the planning commission a future study area planning recommendation document in September,” Fletcher said.

As was the case in January, the issue was tabled — this time with Metheny’s blessing.

“I’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years now, waiting on answers, so in the scheme of things, seven, eight, nine months to have additional answers isn’t that big of a deal for me,” Metheny said.

Fletcher asked that he be given time to consult the city attorney’s office about the proper way forward — specifically if the issue could remain tabled until the study was complete, or whether it would be better for Metheny to withdraw the request.

Metheny was agreeable to both options.

Fletcher said he would also ask whether Metheny would have to pay the $500 to file the zoning change request again at a future date if he agreed with withdraw the current request.

The city has engineering firm AECOM on retainer to perform professional land use planning, like the small area studies.

In other news related to small study areas, the commission voted to approve a zoning change recommended for 12 parcels located in Future Study Area 18 — generally described as the area between Don Knotts Boulevard and the Monongahela River, across from the Morgantown Industrial Park.

The parcels were rezoned from I-1 (industrial) to B-2 (service business district.)

The zoning change recommendation was the result of a six to eight month study process conducted by AECOM.

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