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Star City Council considers variance over rezoning

STAR CITY — Star City Council considered a variance as an alternative to rezoning the property at 444 Westwood Ave., Block C, Lots 9 and 10 from Residential to Commercial during its Zoom meeting Tuesday evening.

The topic was initially brought up at the beginning of the meeting when Council started to discuss its unfinished business.

Councilwoman Sharon Doyle said misinformation has been spread in Star City regarding the rezoning of the property, which sits across an alley from Star City Christian Assembly. Several individuals called Doyle to ask questions or voice concerns about the proposal.

Those individuals were concerned that a gambling establishment, a bar or “something of [that] nature” would end up on the property at 444 Westwood Ave. if it is rezoned.

She said Star City has an ordinance that addresses those types of businesses and includes a minimum distance that such businesses must be located from a church or a school.

Doyle said that the three individuals who contacted her related information consistent to accounts of the other individuals, so all three must have received misinformation from the same person. She did not speculate as to who the individual perpetuating the rumors may be.

“I’m just disappointed that some of the elderly folks in the town were provided this information to get them a little bit riled up as to what’s going to go into their neighborhood,” Doyle said.

Citizen Anthony Sellaro said that he would like to put a garage on the property at 444 Westwood Ave. to store equipment. He said he has no plans to open a Commercial business on the lot and does not care if the city chooses not to rezone the property as such.

“I just want a variance to put my garage up, so I’ve got storage,” Sellaro said.

He said that the garage would be a six-stall garage and that when looking at Westwood Ave., the garage would be the best-looking building on the street.

As The Dominion Post previously reported, a public hearing held concerning rezoning in the town revealed the opposition of Councilwoman Emma Luzader.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Luzader agreed with Sellaro that a variance would be the best way to go. She said that what Sellaro would do with the property would not be found offensive. However, the concern about the property lies in what might become of it if Sellaro would choose to sell it in the future only for it to be rezoned as Commercial anyway.

“Well then leave it residential and give me a variance so I can build my garage,” Sellaro responded. “That keeps you protected, keeps everybody happy and I get my room that I need to put stuff in. Does that sound good to everybody?”

Doyle said that Sellaro would need to approach the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) about the variance because Council does not have the power to issue one.

Sellaro said that Council does have the ability to issue variances without the BZA and that it has been done in the past.

Mayor Herman Reid said that three members of the BZA were in favor of the rezoning, while one member was opposed to it. He said that he was sure that the BZA would approve the variance if Sellaro asked for it.

Sellaro said the problem is that prices are going up on materials and he needs to give the garage’s contractor a down payment for construction. He was concerned about the risk of submitting a down payment and then not securing the property, ultimately losing money.

“I need to know if I’m going to be able to get it or not, that’s the problem. I need to move on this now. It’s just the economy and the way things are. Things are getting crazy,” he said.

The rezoning discussion was tabled until the end of the Council meeting, at which time Council resumed the conversation.

Ultimately, Doyle made a motion to modify unfinished business to issue a variance for the property at 444 Westwood Ave. instead of rezoning it.

The motion was seconded and then approved by all Council members with the exception of Luzader, who said she was reviewing state code and would not be voting at that time.

Reid said he would direct the code enforcement officer to issue Sellaro a building permit in the event that Sellaro does purchase the property at 444 Westwood Ave.

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