Habitat Zoning at Issue
The Aberdeen town commissioners want the Planning Board to reconsider its recommendation on rezoning land in the Midway community for a Habitat for Humanity project, with an eye toward a compromise.
The commissioners decided at their work session Thursday night to ask the board to consider an R-15 residential zoning for the 12.83 acres of undeveloped land between Midway Road and Bronwyn Street.
The Planning Board voted unanimously at its Sept. 17 meeting to recommend that the commissioners rezone the land to R-10, as requested by Habitat.
Residents of the Bronwyn area objected to the zoning change, fearing it would lower the value of their property, among other effects.
The R-15 zoning requires 15,000-square-foot lots, with a maximum dwelling space of 1,200 square feet, which still meets Habitat's building standards for a three- to four-bedroom home. Habitat initially asked for R-10 residential rezoning, which allows higher-density housing with 10,000-square-foot lots.
"We want to be very careful when we downgrade residential rezoning," Mayor Betsy Mofield said.
Approval of the R-15 zoning would still allow Habitat to build there, but the project would have fewer homes and an increased buffer zone between the project and the Bronwyn homes.
Elizabeth Cox, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the NC Sandhills, said the organization has no problem with the R-15 zoning. She has already said Habitat is redesigning its plans to include fewer homes and more undeveloped area.
Cox told the board that the goal of the project is to build "transitional" housing in terms of home values between Midway and Bronwyn.
Midway homes across the street from the land are ap-praised at between $30,000 and $80,000, while the Bronwyn homes bordering the property are appraised at more than $100,000. The homes that Habitat plans to build are appraised at $100,000, she said.
Cox also added that the architect donating time to this project has conceived homes that are "much nicer than anything [Habitat has] ever built before."
The plan includes cottage-style homes that are intended to meet N.C. Healthy Built Home standards -- a first for Habitat, according to Cox.
"[The R-15] relieves our concerns over our least restrictive zoning backing up to our most restrictive zoning," Mofield said.
The board agreed to work with Habitat's timeline for federal funding applications by speeding up the rezoning process, since the Planning Board has to approve a new recommendation.
The board will hold a special called meeting Nov. 9 to consider the rezoning, the same night that it holds a public hearing for the project.
Mofield made sure to clarify that expediting Habitat's approv-al was a special circumstance.
"Under ordinary circumstances, you wouldn't need to approve on the same night as a public hearing," she said.
Cox also said she plans to hold another meeting with Bronwyn residents before the Board of Commissioners' meeting in November.
Dog Training Site
The board also expressed caution on two other items on its agenda -- one concerning a text code amendment to allow dog kennels in heavy industrial zoned areas and another about a setback complaint about Southern Pines property bordering the Lighthorse Trace subdivision off Saunders Boulevard.
K2 Solutions Inc., a Southern Pines-based firm that hopes to train 112 Labrador retrievers to find explosives for the U.S. Marine Corps, is looking at a site on N.C. 211 that is zoned heavy industrial.
Though the firm is already in negotiations with Moore County over property in Vass, it is seeking other options within Moore County in case the deal falls through. The firm has also been negotiating with Scotland County.
Town Planning Director Kathy Liles called the project a potential "economic development opportunity" that would accommodate the firm without significant impacts to the area.
The board agreed, but also recognized the potential effects of the amendment on surrounding nonheavy industrial areas -- specifically the sounds of explosives detonating.
K2 Solutions Inc. has promised the town that the explosions will be infrequent and equate to the sound of removing a stump.
"My thing isn't about the dogs," Commissioner Jim Thomas said. "It's the 'stump removal.'"
The board also expressed concerns about how quickly K2 Solutions wants to begin developing the project.
The firm wanted the board to approve the amendment at its Oct. 12 meeting so it could present plans for the project the following day.
Ultimately, the board decided to hold informal discussion of the item at its Oct. 12 meeting.
The board was also wary about giving in to a complaint about potential liabilities from the Elks Club of Southern Pines, whose golf course backs up directly to the Lighthorse Trace subdivision, which is in Aberdeen.
The Elks Club has requested that the town either put up a net or assume liability for any property damages or injuries incurred by errant golf shots on the fourth hole.
There is currently no significant buffer zone between the subdivision's lots and the fourth hole of the course. Only 7.8 feet separates the two properties.
Though the developer's plans for the subdivision included a 25-foot perimeter buffer zone, it was never specifically designated or included in the actual project.
The board approved the project without the proper setback.
Though the board said it realized the issue could become more of a problem in the future, it agreed not to accept the liability and asked that the Elks Club come back with some other options for compromise.
Hannah Sharpe can be reached at (910) 693-2485.
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