Concerns about the agriculture zoning designation and possible future business uses for the property, in addition to illegal spot zoning in a residential area resulted in the city’s zoning commission Thursday night denying rezoning for an apple orchard.

The unanimous action came after the issue was postponed a month due to commissioner absenteeism, which has continued to plague the commission. Thursday’s meeting started five minutes late to wait for a fifth commissioner to be present.

Commissioners present: Dennis Faith, Pat O’Shaughnessy, Mark Goodwin, Tracy Taylor and Dave Pettigrew.

Absent commissioners: Ken Cunningham, Ken McCray, Melody Ehrlich and Chris Hanson.

The Danville Area Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denying the rezoning of 136 W. Lake Boulevard from R-2 single-family residential medium density to AG agriculture zoning for the purpose of operating an apple orchard. The request is by Lindsay and Marie Varner.

The petition now goes before the city council for final action on May 19.

“This is about agriculture zoning, not someone improving the city,” Faith said.

Lindsay Varner wanted the rezoning for business and property tax benefits, in addition to a conservation stewardship grant award.

Chris Milliken, Danville planning and zoning manager, said the Varners can’t operate the orchard without the rezoning because it is a business and isn’t considered a home-occupation business.

The spot zoning also isn’t in compliance with the city’s comprehensive land-use map and plan, Milliken said.

Neighbors, including Joe Vincent, also were concerned about the 21 other possible business uses under agriculture zoning if the Varners were to leave. Uses could include kennels, an airport, veterinary hospital and telecommunication towers.

Lindsay Varner, a former Danville landscape business owner now working in Florida, said he plans to stay at the site, but he understood the concerns.

He also explained plans for a retention pond area.

Marie’s Apple Trees orchard would not be open to the public. They planned to sell apples off site.

The property, adjacent to their home, is bounded by West Lake Boulevard to the north, Tuttle Street to the west, Evans Street on the east and Crestwood Circle and Randy Lane to the south.

The site is not in the city’s limits, but within the city’s 1.5 mile zoning jurisdiction.

Also Thursday, the commission:

-- Recommended approving a special-use permit requested by property owner Jon Mourer to convert a one-story commercial building with 10 units into five handicapped-accessible apartments at 1128 E. Fairchild St.

Mourer said he talked to Danville Care Center representatives who said these apartments are needed for low-income seniors or those with special needs coming out of a hospital or nursing home.

“(This) will make the best use of the building,” he said.

He estimates that renovations, expected to be completed within 18 months, will cost up to $100,000.

Rents will be $350 to $500 a month.

Mourer said he will not advertise for Section 8 tenants, but he’s also not opposed to them.

-- Discussed West downtown planning to occur within the next year and the city taking over Renaissance Danville’s goals.

“It’s not officially gone, but it’s heading in that direction,” Danville Public Development Director John Heckler said of the neighborhood revitalization group Renaissance Danville.

-- Heard there may be ownership issues, but there generally has been no new information on the planned South Gilbert Street pharmacy.

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