MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon Zoning Appeals Board rejected a request for a conditional use permit to convert part of a first floor retail space into a residential area in the downtown business district.
During Monday’s meeting, the board voted 3 to 1 to deny the request by Tony Cunningham, owner of the property at 15-17 E. Vine St., as current zoning does not allow for residential dwellings on the first floor.
The proposed changes to the first floor would have created an office space with between 350 and 400 square feet and a one-bedroom apartment.
Cunningham told the board he was having a hard time finding a permanent retail tenant because of the lack of parking available near the building, just east of South Main Street. He said that the space would be better suited for a small office and an apartment because of the parking.
“Are we going to create an empty storefront with unrentable space?” asked board chair David Bouchard.
Pat Crow, representing the Woodward Development Corp. spoke in opposition of the conditional use permit stating, if approved, the measure would set precedent in the downtown area making it difficult to say no to similar requests in the future.
Lynne Ricard, downtown manager for the Heritage Centre Association, asked the board to deny the request to keep options open for those wanting to rent retail space in the downtown area. According to Ricard, there are currently only three vacant store fronts and eliminating the Vine Street space will bring that number down to two.
“Our vacancy rate is very low right now,” Ricard said. “We would hate to see our retail space being approved for residential.”