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New Amendment Saves the Castle at Marian Heights

Developer John Kimball will move forward with plans for a four-lot residential subdivision, a vineyard with a tasting room and a garage addition for the castle.

Planning & Zoning Commissioners unanimously approved a zoning amendment offering flexibility for development preserving architecturally significant structures in Monroe. John Kimball, CEO of The Kimball Group, proposed the amendment in an effort to save the historic stone castle at Marian Heights on Monroe Turnpike.

Kimball's family plans to renovate and move into the castle which would have an addition with a garage. The Kimball Group's offices would also be housed there. Kimball will also propose a four-lot residential subdivision, a winery with a tasting room and shared parking with his development firm.

"It's going to enable us to save the stone castle and it's a great step for saving other historic properties in town," Kimball said of the amendment after last Thursday's P&Z deliberation and decision.

Kimball said his family looks forward to living in the historic castle. "We've kind of fallen in love with the property," he said. "It's a beautiful building."

He said the commission made some "thoughtful changes" to the amendment that was initially proposed. "We're pleased with the outcome," Kimball said.

Kimball expects to close on and take title to the 16.7 acre property he is buying from the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in February, then apply for a special exception permit for the subdivision and site plan.

The Amendment

Stone Castle Investments LLC proposed a new section in Article III of Monroe's regulations, Section 301-1170 entitled "Mixed Use Landmark Property Developments" and to amend Article XXIV, Section 117-2402 Minimum Parking Requirements.

The amendment permits, by special exception, mixed use developments on parcels of at least five acres located on Routes 25 and 111, and when the structure to be occupied was built prior to 1960 and found suitable by the commission.

Proposed uses included business, professional and financial offices (but not banks), multi-family dwelling units, tasting rooms associated with a vineyard on the property or any combination thereof.

A condition of the commission's approval eliminates the "business use" language and changes it to "office use".

The commission also struck vineyard and wine tasting/sales room from the regulation amendment, because it was not allowed by other sections of the zoning regulations.

Proposed uses cannot be detrimental to neighboring properties, bad for character or traffic, must be suitably landscaped, and the lot must be a sufficient size for the proposed use.

P&Z Commission Vice Chairman William Porter added the condition of approval that any site improvement to the property — including parking lots— shall be screened with a landscape buffer that the commission is satisfied with.

Setbacks, Parking ...

Kevin Solli, an engineer for the applicant, had said the proposed regulation amendment gives the commission "greater flexibility" for allowing mixed uses on what it deems to be historic landmark properties.

A few other properties in town where the amendment could apply, according to Solli is 1380, 1285 and 1271 Monroe Turnpike and the Monroe Food Pantry at 980 Monroe Turnpike.

The setback from the road would be preserved and any additions to an historically significant structure and construction of accessory buildings would be behind the architecturally significant one to maintain the view from the street.

A condition of the commission's approval is that any accessory structure must have a minimum 30-foot setback from surrounding property lines. Any new structure will be treated as an accessory structure.

No advertising will be allowed on a property, unless it goes through town regulations.

The amendment says parking a multiple-family dwelling use should be represented by dwelling-units-per-acre rather than bedrooms per acre and allow for shared parking.

Stone Castle Investments proposed one parking space open to the public per 300 square feet of floor area of a vineyard tasting/sales room or 3.33 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet.

A modification would allow for two parking spaces per dwelling unit, so long as an opportunity for sharing exists. Kimball said an applicant should provide a shared uses parking study to show how it could work.

He said a typical shared parking regulation requires analysis of the multiple uses sharing the spaces to demonstrate they either share the same patrons or have peak parking demands at different times.

The commission decided that it may authorize fewer spaces with shared parking after reviewing a parking study filed by the applicant.

During the hearing, Solli and Kimball stressed the fact that any proposed Mixed Use Landmark Property Development would require the approval of a special exception permit.

"It allows mixed use developments, but restricts how it could be accomplished," Kimball said.

Jaimie Cura (Editor) January 21, 2013 at 08:21 PM
Wow, that is a beautiful castle. I have a question Bill, and my apologies if I'm not reading this right - the castle will strictly be residential and the potential subdivision and winery will be built on another area on the property?
Kristen January 21, 2013 at 09:18 PM
question I have not seen answered anywhere... what about the nuns cemetary? I have a relative buried there.
jim laguardia January 22, 2013 at 02:57 AM
I would HOPE a cemetery is off limits to anyone buying?? Or doing anything other than maintaining it.
Robynne Wildman January 22, 2013 at 01:53 PM
I too have memories of the Sisters and this property. Hope it all works out, would hate to see this castle go.
Rt25 January 22, 2013 at 03:21 PM
Leave it to Kimball to bargain a castle for his home.
Designated Hitter January 22, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Not sure how it's a bargain if it was on the market for years with no buyer, and the remediation costs are in the $$ millions. I am thankful that Mr. Kimball will purchase it!
John Kimball January 23, 2013 at 11:11 PM
The cemetery will not be disturbed.

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