By Kelli Jo Hull
For Hometown News
The Port Orange City Council gave initial approval of a rezoning request March 4 that will allow Atlantic Marine to move forward with development of a boat sales/repair facility and outdoor storage on the southwest corner of Dunlawton Avenue and Lemon Street.
Tim Burman, city principal planner, presented an overview of the Master Development Agreement for the project. About 75 percent of the property has the proper zoning for boat storage, boat repair and other industrial uses, Mr. Burman said.
Atlantic Marine's attorney Jim Morris asked for clarification on the specifics of the rezoning request. "The only use that is being added is to allow the boat sales," he said.
In pleading the case for the rezoning request to council members, Mr. Morris said, "Given the business that Atlantic Marine does, it's important to them to have the retail sales component. When you look at the document you'll see that the square footage for retail sales activity is limited."
Mr. Morris commented on the benefits to the city to have Atlantic Marine on the Dunlawton corridor by saying, "This is new development within the town center. This will simply contribute to the next wave of what you anticipate" in future economic development.
The proposed project generated criticism from adjacent neighbors in September after the developer cleared a lot as part of the initial clean up of the property. Residents claimed the lot, which bordered their homes was heavily wooded and "clear cut" in violation of city code. City officials investigated and concluded there was no evidence of improper tree removal from the site.
Residents continued to voice concerns about the impact the lot clearing and eventual construction of the facility would have on their privacy and quality of life. Concerns were also raised about increased traffic through the neighborhood.
According to adjacent Ruth Street resident Diane Gardner, Atlantic Marine's representative Jack Wiles met with her to work out a compromise. "Jack was very forthcoming," she said. "He stated that he would install a 40-foot vegetation buffer, which essentially complied with the (city's) LDC."
He also agreed to upgrade the planned fence for Atlantic Marine's property border from a six-foot chain link to an eight-foot vinyl fence to improve aesthetics, she said.
Also, she said Mr. Wiles "volunteered" to "aggressively monitor any commercial traffic from Atlantic Marine" in an effort to address any problems that may develop from increased use of neighborhood roads.
The boundary of the south side of the new development will be Lemon St., which parallels the railroad tracks and dead ends into Powers Avenue. According to Atlantic Marine's Transportation Engineer Sans Lassiter, "The site has been designed to force the traffic leaving the site to go only north, to the left" on Lemon, away from Powers Avenue toward Dunlawton.
Atlantic Marine's Civil Engineer Kimberly Buck confirmed the state Department of Transportation has "conceptually approved" that plan.
Several residents of Powers however, maintain traffic flow on their street will be significantly increased regardless of the forced left turn onto Lemon when vehicles exit Atlantic Marine's property.
Powers resident Paul Rozar expressed concerns about traffic trying "to find the proper way into" the property. Mr. Rozar presented a scenario in which "boat haulers" turn early off Dunlawton onto Powers and then turn onto Lemon, approaching the establishment's entrance from the wrong direction. He fears Atlantic Marine personnel may find a way to allow those vehicles access to the property, circumventing the correct traffic pattern. "If they say, 'Oh, hang on. We'll get you through the back way.' Well if they get a back way through where the parking area is, then they will be known to use that (continuously)," he said.
Kela Lindsay, another Powers resident, said, "We have a little tiny street. As you may already know, it's only 14 or 15 feet wide." Referencing traffic generated from a cabinet shop and seafood shop in the area, she said, "We have children there and we have way too much traffic already."
Ms. Lindsey asked the council to look into some way to "block off Powers at Lemon Street" in a manner that would still allow residents access to both streets.
Mayor Allen Green said, "At one time we put a gate in at Powers and Lemon. It did not work at all."
Mayor Green said he spoke with the owner of the cabinet shop and was assured his employees did not utilize Powers. "I think that's going to be a control mechanism by Jack (Wiles and Atlantic Marine)," he said.
Councilman Bob Ford said, "I would like council to consider asking the city manager to have staff pursue the possibility of putting in a key gate. I am concerned about the people that live along Powers. That we have some type of control mechanism there."
Speaking to traffic concerns Councilman Dennis Kennedy said, "It's kind of a unique piece of property because of the railroad and everything else that's right there. It's a difficult situation altogether. Looking at the renderings that they've given us and knowing what they're proposing, I think it's going to be an improvement certainly over what's there now."
Mayor Green concluded the discussion saying "Overall it's a tough piece of property" to work with, but that he felt the developer had "worked well with it."
Final approval of Atlantic Marine rezoning and final approval will be considered March 25.