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Chatham County slates March 19 hearing on land use ordinance and regulation changes

Posted Monday, March 19, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC - At its meeting on February 20, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners approved public hearings for its March 19 meeting at 6 pm in the Agriculture Auditorium in Pittsboro to receive feedback on proposed changes to its Subdivision Regulations, Zoning Ordinance and Countywide Lighting Ordinance.

“The proposed changes are another important step in making the overall planning and development process more customer-friendly, while still allowing sufficient review by the Board of Commissioners, the Planning Board and staff,” said Commissioner Chairman Brian Bock. “Planning staff have worked hard to develop an effective proposal.”

The major amendments to the Zoning Ordinance would transition the existing multi-step Conditional Use rezoning process to a one-step Conditional Zoning process that would have one joint public hearing. The main advantages of this change include removing the limits on the type of testimony that can be given at the public hearings and using a process that should be easier for citizens and applicants to understand.

Similar to the Conditional Use Districts the County has been using, zoning districts will instead be created as a Conditional Zoning Districts. The proposed amendments also include a new Mixed Use Conditional Zoning District, which would allow a mix of residential, commercial, and light industrial uses to be developed on large tracts using a single plan.

Applicants for Conditional Zoning Districts would be required to hold a community meeting and meet with the Appearance Commission prior to submitting an application. The submittal deadline would be increased from 30 to 45 days to allow sufficient time for staff review of applications, but the number of opportunities for the required public hearing would be increased from 6 per year to 10. All public hearings for Conditional Zoning Districts would be legislative, which removes the sworn evidence and testimony requirements of the current quasi-judicial process.

During discussion, county commissioners asked staff to propose an additional amendment to clarify that county environmental impact assessments apply to both new Conditional Zoning Districts and expansions of existing Conditional Use Districts, while further clarifying that environmental assessments would not apply to residential projects. Commissioners also asked staff to include an amendment removing a current provision that permits applicants to request the rezoning of property they do not own.

Other proposed amendments would streamline the process involved with amending the Zoning Ordinance in the future. If the county initiates amendments, a joint public hearing involving the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners could be scheduled with 30 days notice. Citizen-initiated amendments to the Zoning Ordinance would follow the same process as Conditional Zoning approval. The amendments would also give Planning Department staff limited authority to approve alterations to the Conditional Zoning Districts.

Another significant change would clarify that the N.C. Department of Transportation, not the county, would enforce the placement of signs in the public rights-of-way of roadways. This would reduce the burden on county staff for monitoring and enforcing such signage.

Proposed changes to both the Countywide Lighting Ordinance and Zoning Ordinance would clarify that internally-lit permanent signage is allowed as long as the signage uses non-reflective materials. They also would remove the current requirement that lighting for vehicular canopies, such as gas stations, that were installed prior to adoption of the lighting standards be replaced within five years.

The proposed changes to Subdivision Regulations would clarify the standards and review process for conservation subdivisions. Planning Director Jason Sullivan said that since conservation subdivisions were added to the regulations in 2008 no applications have been received. The staff sought feedback from developers interested in conservation subdivisions and identified several needed clarifications.

The proposed amendments include these clarifications:

  • Any land that developers are required to protect for other regulations, such as riparian buffers and floodplains, can be included in the 40% conservation space needed to qualify as a conservation subdivision.
  • Conservation subdivisions would have no minimum lot size, but the lots must be large enough to provide minimum setbacks and any required infrastructure or services, such as water and septic systems.
  • Roads in a conservation subdivision must meet the same requirements as other subdivisions.
  • Conservation subdivisions with 15 lots or less will be reviewed and approved by the Planning Department using a new specified process.

Complete information on all of the proposed changes subject to the public hearing on March 19 willl be found at: Or call the Planning Department at 919-542-8204. IMPORTANT: Note that staff is still working on the two new amendments requested by the commissioners, so the final proposals will not be available until Feb. 25.

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Chatham County slates March 19 hearing on land use ordinance and regulation changes

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