Aberdeen Looks Ahead on Downtown, Malcolm Blue Farm
As the Aberdeen Board of Commissioners prepared for its last meeting of 2009 during its work session Thursday, many members stressed the importance of planning for 2010 and beyond.
Among several measures, the board discussed reassessing the town's downtown retail overlay district (DROD) in respect to the revitalization and future of downtown Aberdeen. The DROD was established in 1993 to preserve the core of the central business district and to enhance the business community.
The last time the board evaluated its goals for the DROD was 10 years ago.
"Since 1999, quite a bit has changed," Planning Director Kathy Liles said. "It's not a bad idea to sit down and revisit what the next 10 years should be."
Ordinance violations and apparent loopholes in the DROD's zoning spurred the board's discussion of reassessment.
Some businesses operating within the downtown have been holding entertainment events as an accessory use, which is legal as long as it is compatible with the principle use of the retail location.
"Art galleries do have music," Liles said. "Restaurants do have music. How do we distinguish when something is a principle use or an accessory use?"
In the past, the board has cautiously addressed the issue of indoor assembly, with concerns about what "entertainment" the board could potentially allow downtown.
The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal law that ensures equal consideration of religious groups in zoning ordinances, has also been in the minds of board members as they consider their options and work to preserve the business climate of downtown.
At its last work session Oct. 29, the board voted 3-2 to reject a text amendment allowing special indoor events in the rear of a business as an accessory use within the DROD.
Janet Kenworthy, of the Rooster's Wife concert series, applied for the change so she could hold concerts in the back of her retail space at the Poplar Knight Spot in downtown.
After the town turned down the change, Kenworthy opened an art gallery in her space, and has been holding concerts in conjunction with her gallery openings. Restaurants in downtown have also hung art and held gallery openings with live music.
"In the past, my position was trying to uphold the DROD," Commissioner Bobby Farrell said, speaking of his vote against the text amendment. "All I think I've done is make a lot of people in Aberdeen mad at me."
After a lot of discussion, the board decided that a "tweak" to the ordinance would be in the town's best interest.
"I do see a need for a DROD [ordinance]," Commissioner Donna Shannon said. "However, I do see that the citizens are wanting more vibrance in the core area. [The DROD] needs to be tweaked. It needs to grow with the town."
Town Manager Bill Zell suggested that the board seek public input.
"Let the people speak," he said.
The board decided to hold a public hearing at its Dec. 14 meeting on possibly revising the DROD. The Aberdeen Business Guild will also be invited to the meeting.
Dog Training Facilities
The board also held discussion on two text amendments to the zoning ordinance -- one concerning the storage of explosives and the other concerning zoning for kennels.
Initially, the board was concerned with the storage and use of explosives because the current town ordinance does not include any language about explosives.
After further research, the town found that the detonation of explosives must be regulated by the town Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The proposed text amendment on explosives defines what is considered to be an explosive, where storage is allowed and how it can be stored. Storage will be allowed only as an accessory use.
The kennel text amendment will allow kennels and specialized dog training facilities in heavy industrial zones as long as structures for the facilities are at least 500 feet away from any surrounding residential property. The minimum distance includes a 200-foot setback from surrounding properties.
The kennels will be classified based on three categories: a small facility on a minimum of 10 acres, a large facility on a minimum of 50 acres and a specialized dog training facility that can only board animals that have had some level of basic training.
Zell told the board that the amendment was not tailored for K2 Solutions, Inc., a Southern Pines-based business that had hoped to establish a specialized dog training facility in Aberdeen two months ago.
"If someone else comes along down the line, we've got it in there," Zell said. "This is not specifically for K2. This is specifically for Aberdeen."
Zell added that K2 has chosen to set up its operation outside of Moore County, since other areas offered better timelines for the business.
The board will hold a public hearing on the text amendments at its meeting Jan. 11.
Blue Farm Dilemma
In other business, Commiss-ioner Pat Ann McMurray asked the board to consider a potential partnership with Malcolm Blue Farm to preserve the historic landmarks on the property.
McMurray, who is the current president of the farm's Board of Directors, expressed frustration about "clashes of ego" and apathy among the board's members.
"The neglect is terrible," McMurray said.
McMurray said that several structures of the property have fallen into disrepair because of "mishandling" of funds and "nothing to be done" on the farm.
The water tower located between the barn and the museum fell over from excessive wood rot last week when the public works department tried to assess the possibility of restoring the structure.
"It was an unfortunate accident," McMurray said.
Board members considered the possibility of a partnership with Malcolm Blue Farm, but they were wary to enter into an agreement without explicitly determining the town's role in the upkeep of the property.
Mayor Betsy Mofield expressed concern about using taxpayer money to fund the organization, but emphasized the importance of maintaining the landmark widely considered to be the town's birthplace.
The commissioners hope to meet with the Malcolm Blue Farm board at its next meeting to discuss a possible partnership.
The board will hold its last meeting of the year at 6 p.m. Monday at Aberdeen Town Hall.
Hannah Sharpe can be reached at (910) 693-2485.
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