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Public needs clarity on 10/70, zoning, and commercial planning

By Robert Eby
Posted Monday, September 12, 2005

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Below is a copy of an email I sent to Charles Eliason (Chair of the Planning Board ) and the other members of the planning board and Planning Department staff. I've had zero response from Charles or any other PB members.


You've asked for written input on 10/70 & Conditional Zoning.

It follows.

Before I comment on the details of the two subjects, let me step back and take a broader look at planning. We still are treating every new commercial development individually as it comes along. When Chatham Downs was approved, Commissioner Morgan said that the County had not done the planning job for our commercial corridors that it should have, but that we should not penalize the developer because of this failure.

Requests from members of CCEC and others to address the quantification of a commercial corridor plan, as is called for the in adopted County Land use plan, have always been met with the response that, "Yes it is very important and we'll make it a priority and get to it when we finish the work that is currently in front of us." This was said by a number of elected and appointed officials including Commissioner Emerson and Mr. Eliason.

Now the County's agenda suddenly shows the need to look at a 10/70 provision and the change from our current Conditional Use District / Conditional Use Permit to Conditional Zoning. (One can only speculate why these two changes have recently become so urgent.) I would strongly suggest that the highest priority ought to be to develop a commercial corridor plan and an accompanying map. When that is accomplished, then the desirability of changing our current zoning ordinances should be clearer. We've lived with what we have for a number of years. To do so for a little while longer, while we do the oft delayed planning, will not handicap the county or developers.

On 10/70 I am concerned with several elements of the proposal. One is the extra administrative work of keeping track of which land has been granted 10/70 status and how much remains available. Another, and more serious to me, is that there is a strong element of the first folks to acquire 10/70 status get the riches. Once the 10% is "used up", no one else would benefit. (Have no doubt that property will be more valuable to a developer, and its current owner, if it can get 10/70 status.)

Further the DENR's Division of Water Quality has recently advanced a "Universal Stormwater Management Plan (USMP)" which would permit up to 70% impervious surface for both residential and commercial projects, as long as they met strict stormwater containment and clean-up specs. The County would be free, but not required, to adopt these new standards and then could do away with all the other regulations now on the books. I would strongly suggest that we not plunge ahead with a new 10/70 program, but await the final enactment of the DENR's proposal.

If you do decide that you want to proceed with 10/70, then it behooves you to determine what type of storm water management controls will be required.

On Conditional Zoning, there seem to be a lot questions to be answered, if you decide to enact this zoning and do away with the quasi-judicial hearing and five findings that the current Conditional Use Permit procedure requires.

Who could attend the developer's meeting with the "Community"? Keith's flow chart of events suggest it would be open to all interested
citizens, but elsewhere I've read that only abutters would be included. For most of the large developments that have been coming to Chatham in recent years, this would seem to be totally inadequate. Only abutters could meet with the developer of a Wal Mart or Target? How convenient for the developer! Since the County government is not involved, who follows up to see that the developer has "played by the rules" in contacting community members?

The developer's report of the community meeting would seem to be one-sided. I would suggest that either a representative of the "Community" would have to sign off on the report or the "Community" be given the opportunity to submit their own report of the meeting.

The developer should not be permitted to make any changes from the time he submits his Application (before the 30 day deadline) until the Public Hearing. An electronic copy of the Application should be required and it should be posted on the web within 2 working days of
the submittal date. Hard copies should be available at once. If the developer feels he needs to change his Application after the submission deadline, then he must wait for the next subsequent Public Hearing.

After the Public Hearing, changes made by the developer prior to the planning board meeting must be posted on line ASAP in a manner that shows clearly what has been changed. The same would apply for changes made after the planning board review but before final action is taken by the BoC.

Thanks you for taking the time to read my ideas. You have a difficult job.

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