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They say the devil’s in the details.
That was the case Tuesday night as Town Council deliberated for several hours over a twice-deferred request from Sumpter Priddy Jr. to rezone the old BP station on Thompson Street to commercial use.
After settling on language that ensures the preservation of the iconic structure, Town Council unanimously approved the B-1 rezoning request. The approval follows months of deliberation at the town level and vocal opposition from neighboring residents, who feared the project would open the doors to commercial development in western Ashland, which is predominately residential.
“I just want these people to know that I’m not a 900-pound gorilla and I’d be happy to talk to you about anything you want to talk about if you come over to the property. I encourage you to do so and be a part of the restoration,” Priddy said, following the hearing.
Opponents Tuesday had pleaded for the deferral of the project to allow time for the town to develop a “historic overlay district,” a zoning mechanism used to preserve historic architecture.
Mechanicsville attorney Chris Peace represented Priddy Tuesday night, and argued the merits of the project and the importance of historic preservation. However, he called delaying the project to develop a historic district “changing the rules of the game while the game is being played.”
After having his project deferred twice by Town Council, Priddy returned with a revised plan that further restricted potential commercial uses of the property and limited hours of operation and noise.
Tuesday night, he also agreed to further restrictions by removing “undertaking establishment” as a potential use of the property and agreeing to limitations in size of accessory buildings, such as those used for storage.
The main issue, however, was language that some members of Town Council felt could have allowed a future owner to tear down the building and construct another 2,500-square-foot commercial building in its place.
However, Priddy agreed that the historic character of the building would be preserved “in accordance with nationally recognized historic preservation standards.” In the event the structure is destroyed by fire or other phenomenon, and a future owner seeks to rebuild it, they have to construct a “substantially similar structure” with prior approval from Town Council.
The back and forth to nail down a final agreement between the town and Priddy took more than two hours Tuesday for a project originally submitted in January and amended multiple times.
“I’m so proud of living in a community where things can get hammered out, no matter how difficult,” Mayor Faye Prichard said.