Petersburg’s borough assembly wants to hear more from the public about a request to rezone two lots of residential land near Scow Bay. The land owners want to continue storing construction equipment and fishing gear on the properties and have agreed to fence off the lots from neighboring homes. The assembly was split on the request Monday but approved the request in first reading to allow it to get more public input.

For mobile-friendly audio, click here:
The two residential lots are in the Olsen subdivision, next door to the Hungerford Hill neighborhood and Scow Bay, more than two miles south of downtown. The property owners Aaron and Katrina Miller and Richard Burrell have sought to change the zoning to an industrial classification.

Petersburg’s Planning and Zoning commission recommended a change to commercial-2 land designation. That allows gear and equipment storage but is more restrictive than an industrial designation. Planning and Zoning commission chair Susan Thomason explained that the property owners agreed to fence off the property from Arness Heights road. “And this was thought to be in place then when we’re all no longer here. Then you have that buffer, the idea was a buffer or transition zone, from the industrial to the residential.”

The Olsen subdivision is zoned residential while the nearby Hungerford Hill area is zoned industrial but also has a number of residential homes.

Katrina Miller said she and her husband wanted to build a netshed on their property and urged the assembly to approve the change. “We feel that that zoning change would not have a detrimental impact on the surrounding properties. The existing uses of zoning in this area are comparable to nearby properties. Our land is abutted up to industrial land. We feel that it physically fits the area. We will take the steps to make this look right with a green belt and a fence. There is a community need in Petersburg for more commercially-zoned land.”

The Millers want to store fishing gear on the land. They secured a conditional use permit for that purpose but have not yet built that shed because of setback requirements.

On the neighboring lot, Richard Burrell said he wanted to use his property to park construction equipment. “Most of the time it’s just in the wintertime, when we’re doing our maintenance and then summertime it’s gone.” Burrell said he had no plans to build anything on his lot.

Besides a fence, the Millers and Burrell have agreed to create a 20-foot green space for trees next to the road. Neighboring property owners submitted comments for and against the rezoning when the issue went before the planning commission. That was a problem for assembly member Cindi Lagoudakis “I really have a problem with buying a residential property, using it as a commercial property and then applying for a conditional use permit, the terms of which you did not meet and then continuing along the road of changing the zoning on the property over the objection of neighbors and there are neighbors who have objected,” Lagoudakis said. “And that for me weighs more than the planning commission voting to change the zoning. The neighbors are not all in favor.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Mark Jensen recognized the need for gear storage space in town but understood concerns about the zoning change request. He wanted to advance the request at least until the next assembly meeting. “Since there’s three readings of this ordinance I’m going to vote for it in first reading and if it passes good then we’ll get it onto the second reading where there’s public comment. And hopefully if people don’t like what we’re doing, if anybody’s listening to this, then they can come and voice their opinions so we have more information to base our decision on.”

At least one other assembly member, Nancy Strand, said she was opposed to the change but would vote for it once to get it to a public hearing. The rezoning changes were both approved in first reading by a 4-3 vote with Lagoudakis, Bob Lynn and John Havrilek voting no. The issue will be up for a public hearing when the assembly meets again early next month.