01/12/11 — Planning Board holds off on gated communities

View Archive

Planning Board holds off on gated communities

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 12, 2011 1:46 PM

Saying there is no urgency in acting, the Wayne County Planning Board Tuesday night once again left the question of permitting gated communities in the county on the table.

One reason, board members said, is simply that there has been no demand for such communities. In recent years, large residential developments have given way to one- and two-lot projects.

And when the time comes, the county probably would be better served to simply following state fire code regulations instead of drafting complicated ordinance language, County Planner Connie Price said.

Existing county ordinances do not allow gates unless it is a cluster subdivision. Mallard Pointe is not a cluster subdivision. A cluster subdivision allows lots smaller than the normal minimum size in exchange for an open common area maintained by a homeowners' association.

The Planning Board has discussed gated communities for the past several months after Mallard Pointe developers ask for gated community status in September.

The request was initially tabled to allow County Attorney Borden Parker time to review it and then to find out how other counties provide for such communities.

Price said that Johnston County allows gated communities, but has no specific standards. Rather, the county relies on state fire codes and asks that the fire chief of the respective community sign off on the project.

Henderson County requires that the gates be set back from the road a minimum distance to allow at least three cars be in line without blocking the road. Also, a turn-around area is provided in case a person forgets the code for the electronic lock or can't get in for some other reason, he said.

Access through the gate, especially for emergency vehicles, has been a sticking point for the board.

If a guard is at the gate to allow people in and out then the gate needs to be manned around the clock, Price said. That would be especially true in emergency situations, he said. It would not be a good idea to have to wait on someone to drive from the back of the community to open the gate for an emergency vehicle, he said.

Some of the gates are electronic and respond to the sounds of sirens. Those gates would require a battery backup in case of a power failure, Price said.

Board member and firefighter Mike Aycock said that could be an issue as well since many times the first responder to an emergency might be driving a private vehicle.

Price said he had another concern about Mallard Pointe.

When Mallard Pointe, located on Hinnant Road in Buck Swamp Township, was approved, the streets were dedicated as public. Gating the community would mean the streets would no longer be public. The plats and maps approved when a subdivision is created require that the streets stay public.

The streets are designed to ultimately be accepted for maintenance by the state Department of Transportation and the state will not accept streets blocked by a gate.

That would mean that everyone who lives in the community would have to agree to the change, Price said.

Aycock said that he respects what the Mallard Pointe developers want in items of security. However, just having a gate without a wall around the entire subdivision would not keep out intruders.

"If there is no wall around the property all people would have to do is park and simply walk in," Price said.

"Without any urgent need to act on it I'd like to see us continue to study it and get answers on it," board member David Quick said.

The board agreed with Price that the issue could be allowed to remain on the table and addressed when the need arose.

Any changes to the subdivision ordinance would require a public hearing by county commissioners, who make the final decision.

In other business, the Planning Board approved a rezoning request by John Harrell who had petitioned to rezone approximately 10 acres on the west side of Woodland Church Road near U.S. 13 in Brogden Township from Residential-Agriculture 20 to Village District.

The board first discussed the petition last month, but delayed action until it could be reviewed by officials at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Price Tuesday read a letter from base officials who said that they had no objection to rezoning the property that is within the one-half mile extension of the base noise area. The land is outside the base's noise levels and accident potential zone.

There is an approximately 2,300-square-foot building on the property. The remainder is vacant and woodland.

The rezoning will allow the property to be used for residential or small commercial use. The current zoning does not allow commercial use.

The petition will now go before county commissioners for consideration.

Commissioners can leave the zoning as is or allow the change. A public hearing would be required before commissioners could act on the petition. Adjoining property owners would be notified of the rezoning prior to the hearing, Price said.

A sign announcing the rezoning would be placed on the property as well, he said.

Three minor subdivision plats were approved by the board:

* Megan N. Parks final, one lot on the west side of North Beston Road in New Hope Township

* Linda R. Barnes final, one lot on the west side of Hinnant Road in Buck Swamp Township

* Jerry R. Sutton Jr. final, one lot on the north side of Crocus Lane in New Hope Township. Crocus Lane is a private road at the end of Piney Grove Church Road.

The board also approved a variance request by Sutton. County ordinances require that roads with a certain number of houses be paved. Sutton has said that the four houses on the road are all owned and occupied by relatives. He asked that the family not have to pave the road.

Quick was concerned that allowing the variance would set a precedent. He asked what would happen if someone other than a relative were to later buy one of the properties.

Board member Chris Cox said he did not understand Quick's logic since it was a family development. Also, anyone who bought one of the properties would know that the house was on an unpaved road, he said.