03/08/09 — Commissioners talk zoning

View Archive

Commissioners talk zoning

By Steve Herring
Published in News on March 8, 2009 9:57 AM

Wayne County commissioners might have been spared getting caught in the crossfire of last week's fiery standoff between a developer and the people opposed to his low-rent housing proposal if the county had some type of zoning in place.

That was the assertion of Commissioner Jack Best Thursday during the board's planning session at the Goldsboro Country Club.

Zoning was just one of a slew of topics discussed -- items that County Manager Lee Smith and his staff will use to draft goals and priorities for commissioners to consider as the county undertakes work on its 2009-10 budget.

"Zoning is not as negative a word as it has been," Commissioner J.D. Evans said. "I think the Planning Board and the rest are beginning to recognize that we are going to have to do something."

Best said commissioners were put in a "bad position" last week with people trying to make the board choose between "two rights."

"On one hand, we have got a gentleman who wants to develop a project he has all rights to develop," he said. "On the other right, you have concerned citizens who don't want him to do that. If we had some kind of long-range planning, zoning whatever you want to call it, we would not have to make that choice. The choice would have been laid to the people who moved next door to a potential right.

"It is wrong for us not to recognize that problem in the future and work toward not letting that happen again."

Commissioner Andy And-erson said that with Best talking about starting to look toward this "z" word that the group that worked on the county's land use plan would be a good place to start.

"That group, I think, would be our best-selling agent to help get this thing going," he said.

"What I am hearing the group saying is that there is a need to add a discussion of zoning as an action in the comprehensive plan," Com-missioner Sandra McCullen said.

"It is time to pursue it. It is time to take action," Best said.

"It is time to look at it," Anderson countered.

Best repeated it was time to do more than look at zoning.

He said farmers have been against zoning, but now support agriculture zones.

"The problem is most of the farmers are older," he said. "Most of their families are off the farm, and they really don't have a way to pass the land, and they don't know what the future of the land would be in they put it in that agricultural zone.

"Maybe we need to educate our farmers more what on what it means if they put land in agriculture zone could they take it out later, could it be transferred for other use at a later date. That is their retirement. That is there 401K plan."

That brings up development rights for farmland being done in other places, Mrs. McCullen said.

"If we truly want to preserve our open spaces, we probably need to look at that too," she said.

The discussion was prompted by comments by Commissioner Steve Keen concerning the need for a highway economic impact study and the need to protect interchanges, especially on the new U.S. 70 Bypass.

Complementing that protection is a need for the county and city to develop a better working relationship to ensure that zoning and other regulation expectations are compatible, Anderson said.

"I had one company tell me they couldn't get plans through the city, but then they can go to the county and get them," Anderson said. "We have got to make sure the standards, when a company comes in here that they know are going to find out and get what needs to be done. We need to work together to make sure that our zoning is compatible."

Keen said that at a recent meeting it was noted that hotels and motels accounted for $12.9 million spent in the county last year.

"If look at those numbers and work transportation in and you are moving highways, which is going to affect hotel and motel stays, and you look at civic centers and what do you do with occupancy tax and then (city manager) Joe Huffman says we don't need to do an economic impact analysis study," Keen said.

He added, "That doesn't make sense when you have those interchanges with hotels and motels, and when you start adjusting your transportation around the city, it is going to affect occupancy which affects occupancy tax, so why do you not want an economic impact study on highway system particularly those in your ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction)."

Keen said it is his understanding the city wants to extend its ETJ by two miles to encompass the six U.S. 70 Bypass interchanges.

Keen asked Best if the city was "trying to capture the interchanges" on the new bypass.

"They are slow to react to what is coming," Best said. "I think they are slow to react because they don't have any money to do the things that they need to do."

Smith said he had spoken with city staff.

"The county has concerns about interchanges on the new U.S. 70," Smith said. "We do not have county zoning. We do have zoning around schools.

"The concern is when you have areas out there at these new interchanges there is no protection to that area whether there will be quality retail stores and shopping or is just going to be service stations or housing. Which produces the best revenue for us? Well, around the interchanges it is retail sales of all those."

Smith said city officials were saying there would be consistent urban zoning if the city were to incorporate those areas.

It also would provide immediate protection for those areas.

"I said, 'well then you have infrastructure. How about water and sewer, and they said that would be the next step. Protect it first, get it zoned for commercial and retail then we go with infrastructure next. I think they are kind of thinking like we are to protect those areas."

Best questioned whether it would it be better for the county or city to protect those areas.

"I think we need to do it immediately," he said.

"I think as soon as we get the budget to bed, we should start on it immediately," Anderson said.

"I don't think we can wait three months," Best said based on how fast the work is progressing.