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Group Calls Meeting to Rally against Spot Zoning

Aug. 27, 2004 – Spot zoning requests for commercial developments on the North Side and West End of St. Thomas that are scheduled to be heard by the Senate Committee of the Whole on Tuesday evening have generated concern on the part of some residents.
The Northside Civic Organization has called a public meeting for 6 p.m. Saturday at Sib's Restaurant to discuss the rezoning changes and to develop an action plan for approaching the Senate on Tuesday.
Jason Budsan, a member of the Northside Civic Organization, said on Friday that the organization is first and foremost against all "spot zoning." He said the term refers to "placing an activity that is not consistent with the zone that it's placed in."
Budsan said spot zoning is unconstitutional, as noted by Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Dean Plaskett at a Senate hearing Tuesday on the proposed Comprehensive Land and Water Use Plan.
A classic example of what happens with spot zoning, Budsan said, is the case of a wholesale food distributor that was given permission to build a warehouse facility in an area zoned R-1 (residential-low density) in Smith Bay.
"That's the kind of issue that we're facing," Budsan said. If the territory's lawmakers "truly believed in reform in the zoning process," he said, they "would halt all stop-zoning request that come before them."
A total of eight rezoning requests are on the agenda for the Monday evening Committee of the Whole meeting. Five are requests to convert land on the North Side and West End to commercial purposes; for these the intended uses stated by the applicants include three gas stations, three convenience stores, three restaurants and a bar. (For the entire list, see "This Week's Legislative Calendar".)
One request that's of particular concern to the Northside Civic Organization is for the rezoning of land owned by Randolph Vitalis LaPlace in Estate Solberg from R-1 (residential-low density) to B-3 (business-scattered). The owner's application says he wants the land rezoned so he can build a bar, a restaurant and a variety retail store.
"Your quality of life is being sacrificed by theses zoning changes that the senators make law," Budsan said. He added that commercial activity does not belong in residential areas. "I believe when you leave work, you leave work," he said.
Budsan said he hopes North Side and West End residents will attend the 6 p.m. Tuesday hearing to protest spot zoning in their areas.
Budsan also said he realizes that sometimes area residents may not be opposed to a zoning change in their neighborhood. But he said area residents, and not lawmakers, should decide whether a particular business that violates the zoning should be allowed in their residential area. "It's really up to the neighbors to decide," he said.
One of the main criticisms of spot zoning is that once rezoning is granted, petitioners are not obligated to do with the property what they had proposed. They can put the land to use in any manner that is consistent with the new zoning designation – or sell it to someone else who will.
An alternative to rezoning that is rarely exercised by the Legislature is to grant a variance to the zoning for a particular parcel. A variance restricts owners to doing with the land only what they had proposed to do in order to be excepted from the zoning restrictions.

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