Businesses eager to see new Boone UDO
by Anna Oakes
A "Lunch & Learn" on impending changes to Boone's Unified Development Ordinance drew a room full of interested business leaders Friday.
Boone Planning & Inspections Department Director Bill Bailey gave a brief presentation to attendees at the Lunch & Learn, hosted by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce at the Boone Council Chambers.
"Some developers are sitting on projects right now because they don't know what is in the UDO yet," said Dan Meyer, chamber president. "It's just a real critical document."
In concert with the Boone Town Council, Boone Planning Commission and the town attorney, the Planning & Inspections Department has worked on revisions to the UDO and its Table of Permissible Uses since October 2010.
The Table of Permissible Uses is a table in the UDO listing all the property uses permitted in the town's jurisdiction and the zoning districts in which they are permitted.
Bailey's presentation touched on the reorganization of the UDO, including the clarification of definitions, elimination of inconsistencies and redundancies and restructuring of articles by topics.
The result of this process is a much smaller document, Bailey noted.
"That is helpful," Meyer said after the event. "The old structure and process did not lend itself to smooth working."
But the presentation did not include substantive details about proposed changes to permitted uses in various zoning districts and the restrictions placed on these uses.
Planning staff have said that they hope to increase the number of uses that are permitted by right and decrease the number of uses that require a special use permit, which requires a public hearing and Board of Adjustment approval. Staff members have also added many new types of uses to the table.
Bailey mentioned one significant change to the UDO process.
Currently, the UDO dictates that a change in use or major repairs or renovations worth more than 50 percent of the property value are triggers for bringing non-conforming developments and structures into compliance with current zoning codes.
Bailey said staff are moving away from the 50 percent rule and instead are trying to develop a "tiered system" for bringing properties into compliance.
"The whole goal legally on a non-conformity is to bring it into conformity, (but we) balance that mandate with the concerns of the community," he said.
Bailey said the Boone Town Council will review the new document in three pieces over the course of three public workshops scheduled for Feb. 28, March 6 and March 25 from 5 to 8 p.m. each day at the Council Chambers.
After the workshops, staff will incorporate feedback and revise the document prior to a public hearing. The council could adopt the new UDO as early as April, but town leaders acknowledged it could take more time.
"I think we would like to get it adopted in April because we keep hearing from many that this project is holding up projects," said Councilwoman Lynne Mason.
Several attendees asked questions about when the document would be provided to the public for review and if the document would be posted online.
Bailey said the three pieces of the document would likely be available about a week prior to each workshop, and "I will find a place we can put it online."
Meyer urged the business community to actively participate in the upcoming workshops and public input opportunities.
"Nobody's looking for shortcuts," he said afterward. "The business community is looking for progressive change -- making it easy to develop.
"We're talking about the user-friendliness of our community."
The Council Chambers are located at 1500 Blowing Rock Road. For more information, call (828) 268-6200.