12/12/07 — Duplin ponders housing standards

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Duplin ponders housing standards

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 12, 2007 1:55 PM

KENANSVILLE -- With the goal of improving the county's appearance and its potential for future growth, the Duplin County Board of Commissioners entertained two ideas last week -- strengthening the county's minimum housing code and starting work on a countywide land use plan.

Duplin has a minimum housing standard in place, county Planning Director Randall Tyndall said. But, he noted, it doesn't cover all aspects of building.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the problems you see do not apply under the minimum housing code (because) it does not cover aesthetics," Tyndall told commissioners.

The existing code only sets standards for walls, floors, foundations, potable water, and heating, electrical and plumbing systems.

The county Planning Board is considering changing that.

It looked to Wayne County's mobile home ordinance, which requires siding to be painted or stained and in good condition, skirting to be in place, windows and doors to be intact and the original intent of the structure's construction to be followed. It also prohibits the placement of any mobile home older than 15 years inside the county -- although that aspect didn't appeal to Duplin officials.

Feelings about widening the scope of the housing standard, were split among board members. "I think we could have a legal nightmare," commission Chairman Harold Raynor said. "We can't control how people live."

But Commissioner L.S. Guy said commissioners had a responsibility to set standards. "We can't control how people live, but we can get a handle on the minimum standards people live in," Guy said.

In the end, commissioners gave Tyndall and the planning board the go-ahead to begin developing a proposed ordinance. They also gave them the green light to look at developing a countywide comprehensive land use plan.

Currently, Tyndall explained that Duplin is one of only 26 counties in North Carolina without countywide zoning. And while neither he, nor the planning board, is proposing to change that immediately, they are interested in looking at how the county's future growth may be guided. It's a discussion that has been dormant since first being broached by then commission Chairman David Fussell in July. But, with the board voting last month to adopt a new strategic plan, and the N.C. Eastern Region organization estimating that the expansion of the state's military bases will bring about 61,000 new residents into the region, commissioners felt now was the time to begin looking at the issue.

"A land use plan, in and of itself, does not place zoning or restrictions on property," Tyndall said, adding that any such plan is likely to start small -- probably just around the county airport.

Much of the county is already under some form of land use, whether from municipal zoning or voluntary agriculture districts, Tyndall said.

The commissioners said any plan would need widespread community support.

"It has to be a well thought out and very methodical process. We will be very, very public," Tyndall agreed. "This is just in it infancy right now."