Planning Board OKs Voluntary Ag Districts, Flood Maps
In a two-and-a-half hour meeting, the board voted unanimously to recommend a zoning ordinance text amendment, a voluntary agriculture district ordinance and adoption of an amendment to the flood damage and prevention ordinance. Their recommendations now go to the Moore County Board of Commissioners for final action.
The research and development amendment would be added to the Village Business district of the zoning ordinance and would make such facilities available by conditional-use permit. The change was requested by Ray Ogden, executive director of Partners in Progress, the county's nonprofit economic development organization.
"We feel this is a change that is needed," said Planning Director Andrea Surratt in a report to the board.
Surratt told the board that she and her staff have received several inquiries on this issue. The problem, she explained, is that the zoning ordinance does not currently have a category designated as "research and development facility."
In the period since the ordinance was adopted in 1998, some business uses have changed in response to the demand to keep high-tech jobs from going overseas, Surratt said.
"As a result, research and development firms are changing the profile of businesses that were originally thought to impact their surrounding community with traffic, noise, lighting, all of which are signs of a more intensive use," Surratt said. "Now, by blending in to the existing landscape with minimal impact, some of these high tech industries can co-exist with neighborhood scale development."
The recommended amendment will add a new definition to the ordinance, providing for "innovative ideas in technology-intensive fields." Examples include computer software, information systems, communications systems, transportation, geographic information systems, multimedia and video technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
The amendment would specify that use of animal husbandry, heavy equipment or generation of dust, smoke, fumes, odors, noise or unusual vibrations would not be allowed in this definition.
Other text changes cover such things as site considerations, parking, lighting and screening.
Board Member Dave Kinney asked about inclusion of categories with potentially dangerous operations, such as pharmaceuticals.
Surratt replied that any category that the board or the commissioners find undesirable can be removed. The new category calls for a conditional-use permit, which means that the board would have to approve it before issuing a permit and undesirable operations could be turned down.
Surratt said the land-use plan supports recruitment of suitable business and industry.
On a motion by Terry Bryant, the board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the text amendment.
The board approved a proposed text amendment to the flood damage and prevention ordinance in accordance with requirements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA is requiring jurisdictions to update their flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs) to remain eligible for the National Flood Insurance Program.
Staff Planner Katherine Liles said more than 5,000 properties in the county lie in the proposed regulatory flood plains.
Although many tracts are undeveloped, she said 285 flood insurance policies are in force with annual premiums totaling about $139,399. This policies provide coverage for structures valued at $45 million.
Liles said that policy holders could save about $23 a year if the county were to adopt higher standards for the flood insurance program. Moore County is now rated 10 in the Community Rating System Class, which means that property owners are not eligible for discounts.
Following Liles' recommendations, the board decided to adopt six of 13 proposed optional higher standards to improve rate levels. Others may be added later, and one may be subject to clarification.
Under these higher standards, manufactured homes would not be allowed within the flood plain. Existing structures could remain, but permits for new or used manufactured housing would not be issued.
Other options approved include: prohibiting floodway development; enforcing soil testing and compaction standards of the International Building Code, prohibiting or restricting critical facilities (hospitals, nursing homes, fire stations), requiring elevation to or above high water marks for floods of record, and anchoring fuel tanks.
Liles said the issue of critical facilities arose in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, an example that backs up this requirement.
One aspect of the ordinance amendment will be provision of updated flood plain maps.
"It's quite challenging sometimes to figure out the location of property relative to the flood plain on the old maps," Liles said, adding that it should be easier when the new maps, based on digital aerial photography, go into use.
The board also agreed to a language change requested by Gerhard Hergenhahn of Seven Lakes, who pointed out areas that appeared contradictory in the text.
Liles said that although Moore County is urbanizing rapidly, the county has not yet reached the point where upstream development poses a hazard to public safety.
Board Chairman Harry Huberth thanked Liles for her extensive work on the ordinance covering a subject so "complicated and involved."
Judith Crawford made the motion to recommend the text amendment, including the higher standards suggested by the staff. Approval was likewise unanimous.
An ordinance providing for voluntary agricultural districts would be a new one for Moore County, but it is a subject under discussion in recent years.
Glenn Bradley, a former member of the Moore County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors, urged the Planning Board to recommend the ordinance. It was the conservation board that first proposed the concept.
Surratt said participation in the program would be voluntary and could be revoked by the property owner.
The purpose of the ordinance would be to preserve and maintain agriculture, horticulture, related agricultural endeavors and open land and to protect green space and natural resources.
North Carolina adopted the Farmland Preservation Enabling Act in 1985. Since then, 39 of the 100 counties have adopted ordinances. Statewide the program covers 2,675 farms with 204,642 acres.
"Our land-use plan does definitely support this type of ordinance," Surratt said.
Bryant made the motion to recommend the ordinance, and approval was unanimous.
All three ordinances will go to the county commissioners for public hearing and final action.
In other business, the board recommended appointments to the Small Area Plan Area A steering committee and, acting as the county's Watershed Review Board, agreed to grant a request for a special non-residential intensity allocation to Jason Joyce, who has a contract to buy property at the northwest corner of a tract on Seven Lakes Drive near West End.
The measure authorizes 38 percent maximum impervious area to construct the project in accordance with the detailed site plan.
Florence Gilkeson can be reached at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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