Owners of two parcels of land in the Olsen subdivision in Petersburg will not be getting a permanent zoning change to store fishing gear and construction equipment on the residential lots. Petersburg’s borough assembly voted down the zoning change on Monday.

The Olsen subdivision is near Hungerford Hill and Scow Bay, over two miles south of downtown Petersburg. Owners of two residential lots there want to continue storing fishing gear and construction equipment on their land and sought a zoning change to allow that land use.

It’s not a popular idea with some of the neighboring land owners. Joe Aliberti owns a lot in the subdivision and told the borough assembly a zoning change would decrease the value of his land. “They filled this lot knowing that it was a residential lot. It’s been a residential lot. It’s been zoned a residential lot. They did it for a reason when they first did it. There’s a good break there. If you start putting industrial or commercial along that side then the lot along this side no one wants to build a house there either.”

The lots are owned by Richard Burrell and Aaron and Katrina Miller. Aaron Miller emphasized the community’s need for fishing gear storage space and noted the town’s support of the commercial fishing industry. “Where we come up short is on the gear storage end. None of us need to venture too far from our homes to identify a property zone violation of one kind or another. Ideally living in a perfectly planned community, like what they’re doing in China, whatever, brand new cities, no one would have to live next to a power skiff across the street, or a gillnet corkline stretched across their neighborhoods, the other neighbor’s driveway or a stack of crab pots obscuring their view as they drink their morning coffee. But Petersburg is not a planned community. This is not Scottsdale. It’s not Palm Springs.”

Miller wants to build a warehouse on his land and pointed out the improvement would bring more tax dollars to the borough. The Millers had a conditional use permit for fishing gear storage approved in 2011 but did not build a netshed or fence that were conditions of that permit. They sought a permanent zoning change last year.

Richard Burrell has stored construction equipment on his lot . He told the assembly that the residential properties had no municipal sewer or water service if people were to build homes. “You know everybody’s looking down on me like Im polluting or some damn thing but Im not. All I want’s a parking place.”

Burrell and the Millers originally sought a change to industrial zoning for the lots.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Chris Fry explained the commission’s recommendation for commercial land was a compromise. “Our goal was to find a solution that was reasonable to all parties involved. And we had multiple meetings on this and asked for what the concerns were and we tried to address them. We had much deliberation on this topic and we tried to find a solution that would work. We decided not to grant the industrial zoning originally requested cause that would’ve made things worse, not better.”

The land owners agreed to commercial zoning and agreed to add a fence and green belt separating the lots from the neighborhood road. Industrial lots in nearby Hungerford Hill are behind the Olsen subdivision.

Assembly member Nancy Strand was against the rezoning. “It was residential when they bought ‘em. It creeps it over so that all the arguments of it becoming a buffer don’t seem reasonable to me because there’ll be residential across the street that will be now next to the spread of this, so I’m afraid I can’t support it.”

Meanwhile, Jeigh Stanton Gregor came down on the other side of the issue. “In the case of this one, I am going to vote for it. Not easily; I’ve wrestled with this one more than the other issues on the topic. I don’t necessarily know if there is a right or wrong. I hear Mr Aliberti’s points, I hear Mr. Burrell etc’s points. In this case Im going to support it because I think, in the big picture I don’t believe it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.”
Stanton Gregor and Kurt Wohlhueter were the only votes in favor of the rezoning and the changes for both lots failed in second reading by a vote of 2-3.