By Tina Alvey
A proposed $5 million multiplex movie theater has cleared another regulatory hurdle, as Lewisburg City Council voted unanimously to push the needed rezoning on to the public hearing stage.
Barnette Development, which is based in Logan, revealed plans in September to construct an eight-screen theater with stadium seating that would accommodate a total of 1,000 patrons.
The proposed site of the multiplex is part of the Gateway Commons property on North Jefferson Street (U.S. 219), across the road from the Lewisburg Walmart. If built as planned, the theater will be located behind Lowe’s and the Grand furniture store.
The two parcels comprising the theater site are now partially in a commercial zone, but most of the acreage is zoned residential.
After failing in September to gain the city planning commission’s endorsement of a rezoning that would have converted the entire 13.78-acre site to a general commercial designation, the Barnettes returned to the planners this month with a request for a different zoning designation.
Agreeing to the developers’ new proposal, the planners then forwarded a positive recommendation to City Council for the requested compromise — re-zoning the two parcels to a “neighborhood commercial” designation, which allows mixed residential and commercial uses.
Tuesday evening, City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that will re-zone the property if the measure also passes a second reading next month, following a public hearing.
Council also gave thumbs-up to a related request from Barnette Development for a conditional use permit to allow operation of a movie theater on the property, contingent upon the re-zoning gaining approval.
In discussing the Barnette re-zoning, Council also touched upon the larger issues facing the city in determining the future of a swath of properties stretching from the 33-acre parcel commonly referred to as “the rock pile” through the as-yet undeveloped portion of Gateway Commons and all the way to the I-64 interchange.
The planners also tackled those issues, reported Council member Mark Etten, who serves as the Planning Commission’s president. Council had earlier directed the planners to take a hard look at the area in question, with an eye toward possibly modifying the city’s comprehensive plan to reflect a more realistic view of the future land use there.
Etten said the planners’ discussion focused mainly on the need for buffering between existing residential properties bordering Fairview Road and the ever-growing commercial development of property that abuts them.
While the Planning Commission is not yet ready to recommend changes to the comprehensive plan, Etten said the group appeared to favor the commercial-residential mix represented by the neighborhood commercial — or C-1 — zoning designation for that portion of the city.
Currently, the city’s only C-1 zone is located on West Washington Street (U.S. 60), from the Maple Street Bridge to the western edge of town, just beyond Jim Lively Insurance, according to zoning officer Ken Tubbs.
The planners will take up the broader issues in more detail at their next meeting, Dec. 6.
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