City Council tabled a request by Rockingham Properties LLC to rezone and obtain a special-use permit for 231, 251 and 261 S. Liberty St. on Tuesday.
Council tabled the matter due to concerns from Rockingham Properties LLC, represented by Matchbox Realty, which requested to change the zoning from M-1, general industrial district, to B-1, central business district.
Council did not have an issue with the special-use permit request, which would allow operations of the Daily News-Record to continue while also opening up the rest of the building to be used for business and other things.
The applicant requested the rezoning because, according to city documents, there are plans to redevelop the property in six to 10 years.
If approved, the city would have to accept the responsibility of the parking demand on downtown because B-1 has no minimum off-street parking requirements, according to city documents.
The property has around 82 marked parking spaces. If the applicant decided to redevelop or enlarge the building, it would eliminate current parking spaces, increasing demand for more public parking.
Mayor Deanna Reed and Councilmen Richard Baugh, Chris Jones, George Hirschmann and Sal Romero voted to table the requests.
According to Adam Fletcher, the city’s director of planning and community development, there were “counts” conducted at the municipal parking lot on a day in April in preparation for a downtown parking study. The municipal lot is the closest public parking area to the Daily News-Record parcel.
The counts indicated that the municipal lot, at midday, was 80% full.
Fletcher said that when a parking lot is 75 to 85% full, it means that finding parking is reasonable and turnover is healthy. Over 85% means the parking demand cannot be satisfied, according to Fletcher, and staff is concerned with downtown parking becoming more constrained over time, particularly by the Ice House complex and City Hall.
Romero said he understood the frustration of parking downtown but supports increasing walkability downtown.
“I get it why they prefer the B-1. The B-1 allows them to do whatever they want now — they could knock the building down, fill the whole [parcel] with building,” Baugh said.
He added that the applicants could come back in a few years once their plans are more developed and apply for the rezoning.
In other news, council did not take action on a resolution declaring Harrisonburg a Second Amendment sanctuary. Localities throughout the region and state, including Rockingham County, have passed similar resolutions in response to anticipated legislation in the ongoing General Assembly session to tighten firearms laws.
Baugh said he doesn’t understand the point of taking a position as a council on such matters when the legislature will take action on it.
Jones, who is a gun owner and is in favor of firearms, said that when he read the resolution, “it kept saying that the governor and the legislature was doing something unconstitutional, but that’s not true because nothing’s happened yet. So, you have to wait until something’s actually happened.”
Also at the meeting, council appointed Jim Ordnorff to replace Henry Way on the Planning Commission. Council reappointed William Blessing to the Harrisonburg Transportation Safety and Advisory Commission, and Craig Miller, Gerald Bland and Steven Hottle to the Building Code Board of Appeals.