WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday voted 7-0 to approve rezoning two lots on Kennedy Memorial Drive and Carver Street to allow professional offices and financial institutions to operate there.
However, councilors made it clear they must take two more votes on the issue and changes to the proposal may be made before a final vote is taken.
Leland and Fernande Bard own 167 Carver St. and 121 Kennedy Memorial Drive, which are partly in a residential neighborhood, but also are off a busy four-lane highway (Kennedy).
The Bards’ daughter, Celeste, said her parents want to sell the properties but that has been a challenge because of the zoning, the 97-foot depth of one property and the high volume of traffic on Kennedy Memorial Drive. They bought the lots as an investment 30 years ago, she said.
Meanwhile, the Planning Board recommends the properties be rezoned but placed proposed conditions on the rezoning that the Bards and others call too restrictive. One of the conditions is that the lots be used only for financial institutions and professional offices.
Celeste Bard said she wants neighbors to be able to weigh in on what type of business or use they would want to see on the properties.
“We really do want to strike a balance that works for the neighborhood,” she said.
Some residents said they thought the Bards felt pressured to accept conditions the Planning Board placed on the recommendation to rezone.
“We felt lucky to have made it out of that meeting with any approval at all,” Celeste Bard said.
She identified several people in the neighborhood who have said they support the rezoning. Lindsey Burrill, a neighborhood property owner and investor, said she was surprised at the proposed restrictions planners placed on the rezoning, including that screening be placed on Merryfield Avenue.
“I found it unnecessary,” Burrill said. “My property looks at it, and if I was looking at a nice new building with a parking lot, I’d be happy with that,” she said.
The discussion prompted Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, to ask why a recommendation was not made to match the zoning on the Bards’ lots to the Commercial-A zoning across Kennedy Memorial Drive.
Councilor Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 6, agreed.
“Right,” she said. “That would be one of my questions as well.”
Mathias recommended city officials consider the larger picture — that they review Kennedy Memorial Drive as a whole and ask what the city wants it to look like. The road is becoming less and less safe, she said.
“What do we do as a whole?” she asked.
South End resident Scott McAdoo urged city officials not to allow any more accesses to Kennedy Memorial Drive and Carver Street in their consideration of the issue. He said he travels on Kennedy Memorial Drive almost every day and he has seen cars exit a business and shoot across the road and get broadsided because there are not enough lanes in the road for motorists to be safe.
“It’s going to cause more of an accident-prone area,” he said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247