Hatcher Ave buildings

A section of N. Hatcher Ave. in Purcellville has been approved by the Board of Architectural Review for the Trails End mixed-use development.

After the Purcellville Town Council rejected a zoning amendment in April that would have changed building height regulations in the C-4 zoning district, the council reconsidered the motion on June 8 and approved the amendment with a vote of 4-2.

Mayor Kwasi Fraser, Councilman Stanley Milan, Councilman Chris Bertaut and Councilman Tip Stinnette voted in favor of the amendment, while Councilman Joel Grewe and Vice Mayor Mary Jane Williams voted against.

Based on comments made by council members at the May 25 meeting, there was an opening for reconsideration if changes were made to the amendment.

Council members were interested in changes pertaining to whether or not the council would decide height exceptions through the special exception process, rather than the special use permits.

Additionally, council members expressed a preference for receiving a recommendation from both the BAR (Board of Architectural Review) and the planning commission, rather than only the planning commission.

The item was then brought back to the Planning Commission for further discussion to accommodate the original issues.

The ordinance has been amended to include a new process for considering height exceptions in the C-4 zoning district, where council will vote on height exception applications after conducting a public hearing and receiving recommendations from both the BAR and planning commission, according to a staff report.

In addition, the planning commission will use the special exception process when considering applications and will hold an advertised public hearing, which will run concurrently with the BAR's process.

For further clarification, the buildings that currently meet the height requirement will be approved to avoid non-conforming after the ordinance was adopted.

The Planning Commission identified the Downtown South area as the first area to align with the Comprehensive Plan. Because much of the area is zoned C-4 — or central commercial use — the height regulations within this district became the first proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance.

Councilman Joel Grewe said he continues to have concerns about the ordinance.

“Basically it takes the creativity out of the building owner's hands and I like preserving opportunity for entrepreneurs,” Grewe said.

Fraser responded by saying he does not believe that height equals economic development or height allowance equals creativity or innovation.

“We have had places in downtown over the past eight years that could have been creative. We are still waiting for concrete to be poured on some. I don't think by us passing this ordinance we are restricting innovation and creativity. What this ordinance does is it enables us to have a discussion as a community to build something that is worthy of restoration, 10, 20 or 30 years from now,” Fraser said.

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