01/08/09 — New zoning ordinances ease Mount Olive landscaping requirements

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New zoning ordinances ease Mount Olive landscaping requirements

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 8, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive town commissioners Monday night amended a provision in the town's zoning ordinances to make it easier for businesses to meet landscape requirements.

In other business, eight rundown properties were given reprieves of up to 90 days before the town begins condemnation procedures, and the board agreed to buy a new police car to replace one totaled by a deer.

"We are seeing with more frequency where somebody is wanting to build or establish a business in Mount Olive and this has created kind of a tough situation for (town inspector) Danny (Keel) because we hate to tell a business it can't come here because of inflexibility in landscaping," said Town Manager Charles Brown. "This would make Danny's job much easier and also makes Mount Olive a lot friendlier for potential businesses to locate here."

Under the old version of the ordinance, the town inspector could allow alternate methods of compliance with the landscaping rules, but only in C1 districts.

The amendment, recommended by the town Planning Board, extends that authority to all commercial districts.

The ordinance allows for the use of alternate landscape plants, plant materials or methods to be used "in situations where strict adherence to the provisions of this ordinance would result in impractical or unreasonable situations."

Such situations could result from severe topography, natural rock formations, utility easements, lot size or configuration or other physical conditions.

"It will be up to his discretion to make that decision when it just cannot be met on all four sides," said Planning Board Chairman Gena Knode.

No one from the public spoke at the brief public hearing held prior to the board's approval.

Commissioner Kenny Talton wanted to know if there was ever any reason to consider bringing landscaping issues before the Planning Board.

"Is there a way to ensure fair and equal treatment for everybody?" he asked.

Ms. Knode said she could only think of one recent case in which a business could meet the requirements except for one side.

"Danny always calls me and we discussed it," she said. "He said, 'What do you think we ought to do. Should we poll the Planning Board members?' I said, 'What does legal say? What are our alternatives here?' because we want to do the right thing.

"He did call a number of Planning Board members and we discussed whether we should hold a special meeting for that one side. In that case the business was willing to erect a fence. We talked to the businesses around it and they didn't have any problems with it. Unfortunately that business did not come."

Ms. Knode said that Keel "does a great job" of trying to keep the Planning Board and commissioners informed about what is going on.

Mayor Ray McDonald Sr. noted that businesses not satisfied with a decision could still appeal to the Board of Adjustment.

In other business, commissioners heard from the owners of several of the houses the town is looking to demolish.

*124 E. Nelson St., owned by Lillian K. Oliver of Thunder Swamp Road. Ms. Oliver said she is in the process of seeing if the house can be burned by the fire department. It will be reviewed in 30 days.

* 804 E. James St., owned by Regina Ham of Durham. Ms. Ham said the house is scheduled to be demolished in March.

* 104 E. Kelly St., owned by Rosa Mae Oliver of Clinton. Keel said he has received no response to several letters. It will be brought back before the board in April for possible demolition.

* 314 S. Church St., owned by Judy Carr Peebles of New York state. Keel said the fire department had planned to burn the two-story house but was unable to because of its size and close proximity to other houses. It will be brought back before the board in April. "It is going to have to be taken down," Keel said.

* 121 E. Hillsboro St., owned by Clorinda Lee. Talton said he had been contacted by Ms. Lee's son, Kenneth, who said he is trying to sell the house, but had been delayed by the death of his uncle. If it is not sold within 30 days the family may tear it down or let the town do it. Lee was given 60 days to settle the issue.

* 119 E. Slocumb St., owned by Leo Clegg of Dunn. Clegg said he was working on the property. Commissioners agreed to give him 60 days and then review the progress.

* 204 NE Center St. (the old Robert Holmes house) and 109 E. James St., both owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Herring of Mount Olive. Herring said he is trying to sell the historic Holmes property for it to be renovated and that he planned to paint the other house. He was given 90 days.

Also, commissioners approved slightly more than $20,000 to purchase a 2009 Dodge for the Police Department to replace a 2006 Ford Crown Victoria.

Brown said the insurance company had "totaled" the vehicle after it was struck by a deer. He said the insurance had paid and that the town will be allowed to keep the car and use whatever parts could be salvaged.