Residential use of downtown buildings; 'Fatal mistake for future?'
LANCASTER – Recommendation by Senior Planner Nathaniel Barnett and a unanimous vote by the Planning and Zoning Committee back in May only helped the Lancaster City Council to pursue approving residential use of downtown buildings Monday, June 13.
Mayor Marcus Knight recused District 1 Councilman Walter Weaver before any discussion took place because of his relationship with the applicant, his wife, Susie Weaver.
The two properties, located on the Historic Lancaster Town Square, have been vacant most of the 14 years Weaver has owned them.
“Right now I have monthly leases on both the buildings but, I would like the option to be able to do so [convert to residential] if needed so the properties aren’t sitting vacant,” said Weaver.
“In reality, in a perfect world, I would like all the fronts of the Town Square to be filled with retail, but they would be really cute as efficiency apartments on a needed basis.”
Barnett told council the move would increase the marketability of the one and two story properties.
“Only one [Town Square merchant] sent opposition,” said Barnett.
The opposition was sent in by newly re-elected Lancaster Independent School Board Trustee Ellen Clark, owner of Town Square Realty.
In Clark’s letter to the council she states : “I am against any residential use on the ground floor of any building on the square. As the square returns with the economy this will be a fatal mistake for the future.”
The size of both units is around 500 square foot and currently, residential units have only been allowed on the second floor of Town Square retail property.
Barnett’s presentation to the council pointed out there is a mix use of the properties located downtown.
Council approved the specific use permit unanimously.
“This decision is because of the economy and to get the necessary cash flow into the city,” said District 3 Councilman Marco Mejia.