David Wiseman

Planning Commission Chair David Wiseman reminded the crowd of people multiple times that they were discussing the proposed PUD language and not Southfields. Many in the audience still raised questions.

ELKTON — After hearing hours of concerns about what the future Southfields development would bring, the Elkton Planning Commission voted Monday to recommend proposed Planned Use Development (PUD) zoning language with some amendments.

Meeting Wednesday night

The ordinance now moves to the Mayor and Commissioners. Officials will hold another public hearing on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. The Cecil Whig will cover the public’s reaction further in Friday’s edition.

Because Elkton has no current zoning language or regulations for PUDs, this ordinance will set the path for future developments and will have a direct impact on the much discussed Southfields.

The Southfields project is a planned development of 650 acres, for a 4.2 million square foot commerce/industrial park, up to 850 homes as well as retail and recreation use.

Southfields concerns

Monday night’s meeting was filled to the brim with people who live surrounding the Southfields project, as well as concerned citizens. Three miles west, several other people attended the county Planning Commission meeting to be heard.

At the town meeting, people were lining up to air their concerns about Southfields and what the proposed PUD language could mean for the development and the greater area. Planning Commission Chair David Wiseman reminded several people their purpose tonight was to consider the PUD language.

“If Southfields were to disappear and the next contract purchaser were to come in, they would have to file the same guidelines that are established. There can be restrictions and managements for it, but right now no one can do anything but to build X amount of houses per acre,” Wiseman said.

Monday’s meeting lasted for four hours, and many of those in attendance directed their comments about the great unknowns left unanswered in Southfields.

Some, like Barbara Meyers, expressed frustration that the soybean farmland would be turned into an unknown light industrial use, demanding to know “what the heck it is.”

Another person took issue with the fact that Elkton consulted with Morris & Ritchie on the PUD language, calling it “giving the canary to the cat” to fit the developer’s agenda for the property.

Planning Director Jeanne Minner clarified that the town used PUD language the town shelved back in 2013 and revised it with some consideration from Stonewall Capital and Morris & Ritchie, who has experience in similar projects.

She also told the Whig that not all of Southfields developers’ input was considered.

For example, it was suggested to allow storage and parking uses but the town rejected that since it that use is kept along the highway.

‘Not a town of Elkton issue’

John Conolly, who was against the development a decade ago and still against the development today, was one of the few that directly commented on the language directly, specifically about what is considered light industrial use.

Town officials said that “light industrial” use is subjective and services that are kept completely inside and have minimal noise or odors compared to heavy manufacturing.

To that end, Conolly suggested the Planning Commission adopt a stronger definition. He also recommended that town officials consider what it meant for a PUD to serve the residents of the surrounding region, as outlined in the ordinance. Many people, like himself, live outside of town limits — off Maloney and Frenchtown Road — but would see vast changes from Southfields when it comes.

“For potentially large PUD that may be coming down the line at some point in time, this region is going to include a significant number of county residents. There’s going to be impacts to transportation to schools and it’s going to span the rest of the county south,” Conolly said. “It’s simply not a town of Elkton issue.”

Proposed PUD language

The new ordinance creates PUD as a floating zone, with the goal to give prospective developers some flexibility and creativity to mix residential and commercial use. PUDs can only be established for 50 acres or more that is under single ownership.

Small PUDs must have less than 100 acres of contiguous property. Large PUDs can have noncontiguous parcels — land that does not have property sharing borders. These parcels, however, cannot be separated for more than one-quarter of a mile. Large PUDs cannot have more than two noncontiguous parcels.

As of press time, Southfields is proposed as a mixture of high density residential (R-3) and highway commercial (C-2). Previous plans had 2,500 homes planned for the land, but R-3 standard density allows for 5 single family homes and duplexes per acre, 10 townhomes per acre and 14 apartments per acre.

The proposed PUD language allows developers to increase residential density of the underlying zone by 1.25 percent. For R-3, that allows 6.25 homes and duplexes per acre, 12.5 townhouses per acre, and 17.5 apartments per acre. For commercial properties, the PUD language determines residential density for standard R-3 density.

The proposed PUD language requires developers to have at least two types of residential use. This can mean duplexes, multi-family use, single family detached homes or townhouses. Other requirements stipulate that 60 percent of residential use must be for single-family detached homes, condos or senior living.

“This is the type of housing we don’t have often in town at this time, so we want to encourage it with future projects,” Planning Director Jeanne Minner told the Whig after the meeting.

Originally, the PUD ordinance asked to limit townhouses to four per unit. But Southfields engineering firm Morris & Ritchie reportedly pushed for more units. Instead, the town will be amending the ordinance to allow 20 percent of townhouses at 6 per unit, another 20 percent of townhouses at 5 per unit. The remaining amount of townhouses are capped at 4 per unit.

The Planning Commission also struck boarding houses from proposed accessory uses, leaving accessory apartments, drive-in banks, child or elderly care centers, schools, group homes, outdoor recreation areas among others.

There still would be requirements for open space, like 25 percent of total gross acreage of the land would be kept open for common use. For each dwelling, there will be .02 acres allocated for parks and recreation areas. Parks and recreation/open space use has a floor at 30%.

The PUD language requires projects to abide by parking and dimension standards in the zoning ordinance, as well as planned landscape and buffer yards. But it also allows the developer vary from those standards if it can prove the public benefit in doing so.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Parks and recreation use is capped at 30 percent of the PUD’s open space. We regret the error.

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