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Council set to approve rezoning for Gates Circle project

The Common Council is set to approve a new special zoning district for a Gates Circle property that already has been endorsed by the city Planning Board.

The Planning Board approved the plan Monday despite the threat of a lawsuit by attorneys for Canterbury Woods Retirement Community, who were pushing for a six-story cap on the height of any new building next to its new senior community. The community’s plan now includes a 10-story cap.

Then, on Tuesday, the Council’s Legislation Committee supported the new zoning plan, despite complaints from a few residents that it hadn’t been fully vetted by neighborhood residents.

After a public hearing last month, when residents asked for some changes in the plan, Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the Ellicott District, and Delaware Council Member Joel Feroleto amended the proposal to address resident concerns about parking and building height.

The amended plan prohibits parking lots in front of structures along Lancaster, Delaware or Linwood avenues. It also requires buildings to be at least two stories high but no more than 10 stories.

The two-story provision was included because residents were concerned the original plan would have permitted one-story strip plazas. The 10-story provision opposed by Canterbury Woods was in the original proposal.

Lancaster Avenue resident Daniel R. Sack told the committee Tuesday that many neighborhood residents aren’t aware of the latest proposed changes, and asked that the Council table the measure to give the community time to review the amended plan.

But Feroleto said he has remained in contact with neighborhood leaders, who are aware of the changes – which, he noted, were made at the request of the neighborhood residents.

The Council committee is recommending that the full Council approve the amended Gates Circle zoning district at its meeting Tuesday.

The new code covers the 6.7-acre property that was the former site of Millard Fillmore Hospital.

The amended zoning district regulations were presented to the Planning Board on Monday by Marc Romanowski, attorney for TM Montante Development, which owns the site. Romanowski endorsed the proposed changes, which he called “a couple of further minor tweaks” to address neighbors’ concerns.

However, planners did not agree to lower the maximum height from 10 stories to six for development adjacent to the six-story Canterbury Woods facility now under construction at the front of the site.

“I don’t want to start carving out parcels and putting restrictions on specific parcels,” said James Morrell, Planning Board chairman. “I’m OK with this document.”

That was a disappointment to Episcopal Church Home & Affiliates – the owner and sponsor of Canterbury Woods – which previously threatened to sue the city to force such a change. Episcopal Home officials say a 10-story building would infringe on their residents’ views and sunlight, and diminish the living arrangements they were expecting.

“Canterbury Woods views this as incompatible with our project and detrimental to the many residents who are going to live at Canterbury Woods,” said attorney Patrick T. Fitzgerald of Phillips Lytle LLP.

Attorneys for TM Montante and Episcopal Home had aired their differences at prior meetings of the Planning Board and the Legislation Committee, but to no avail.

The Planning Board, at its last meeting, had directed the two sides to work out their differences on their own, but they “didn’t make any progress,” Romanowski said.

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