SP Gears Up for Major UDO Revision
BY TED M. NATT JR.
Southern Pines has created a Stakeholder Steering Committee as it gears up to revise the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) for the first time since its inception in 1989.
The UDO controls all design and land-use regulations for the town. The revision will streamline and update the existing code in addition to ensuring its compliance with, and ability to implement the goals of, the Comprehensive Long-Range Plan (CLRP) adopted by the town last year.
"The UDO has served the town very well, but there certainly have been instances in the past five to 10 years where conflicts, shortcomings and interpretation issues have come to light," Town Manager Reagan Parsons said. "This is an opportunity to take a look at those issues, shore up the code, and bring the UDO in line with the policies and goals of the CLRP."
The town has hired Planning Works, a Leawood, Kan.-based consulting company, to facilitate the yearlong process. Planning Works was awarded the $149,180 contract in October after a five-member committee that included Parsons reviewed proposals from five firms.
"Southern Pines striking at this point is the best time to do it," said Bruce Peshoff, a partner at Planning Works. "You don't have growth pressures influencing decisions, so you've got breathing room to review, consider and understand alternatives that give you the time to make informed choices.
"The UDO needs to protect existing investments and encourage new investment."
Peshoff said the "community-driven" process will be broken down into the following four phases:
n Diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of the town's existing regulations.
n Select regulatory strategies that build on existing strengths and resolve existing weaknesses.
n Build the Land Use and Development Code through the process of choosing regulatory strategies that will work best for the town.
n Finalize UDO adoption and implementation.
"The Planning Works team cannot choose which options are best for the town, but we can help (local stakeholders) understand the implications of alternative regulatory strategies and reach concensus for the options that are best for Southern Pines," Peshoff said. "This is your UDO. Our main job is to listen and help you achieve your goals."
Planning Works will hold 10 sets of meetings and conduct four three-day forums because town officials want the process to be inclusive and transparent as well as challenging and rewarding. The first forum was originally set to begin Monday but has been rescheduled for Jan. 17-19.
"Hopefully, getting past the holidays will provide greater levels of participation and some additional time to advertise and generate interest," Parsons said. "There will be a number of opportunities for interested parties to participate in the process."
The contract also calls for Planning Works to study West Southern Pines and downtown Southern Pines, and perhaps draft regulating plans for those neighborhoods.
"There will be specific study given to those areas while updating the UDO," Parsons said, "but there may or may not be individual documents for each area once the process is complete."
He added that the town envisions the Stakeholder Steering Committee as being UDO "ambassadors" - not only offering policy guidance but also serving as conduits of information.
"Obviously, this process is very important," Parsons said.
Town Council member Chris Smithson, who will represent the council on the 18-member committee, noted that the UDO has been amended more than 100 times in the past two decades.
"These things have a life-span, and it needs to be redone," Smithson said. "Our UDO is not as broken as some people make it out to be. We're not at a standstill because it's unworkable. What we're going to get is a modern document that is easier to use and easier to enforce."
While Smithson doesn't foresee any "drastic changes" to the UDO's core, he does envision new methods "toward reaching certain goals."
For example, developers may be rewarded "for going above and beyond what's called for in the UDO, whether that be creating more open space, imposing more restrictions or lowering the density," he says. "The UDO should encourage best practices."
Smithson said he looks forward to the process because he believes it will be similar to the CLRP.
"I like this kind of stuff," he said. "I find it interesting."
Peshoff said the forums "will be a very intensive three days," with concurrent sessions in the morning and afternoon.
"The second and third forums will probably be in March and April, which is by design so everything will be fresh in everyone's mind," he said. "We're probably looking at late summer or early fall for the final forum, at which time we will present the new UDO for review."
In between, Planning Works intends to conduct other public meetings, provide a monthly progress and status report, conduct regular teleconferences with town staff, and maintain a project website that will include community surveys, among other things.
Peshoff said the website - www.southernpinesUDO. org - is "almost ready to go live."
"It will include an opportunity to sign up and receive email notices of meetings, work product, etc., and will include a reference library of articles that cover a wide range of viewpoints," Peshoff said. "The goal is to facilitate upstream/downstream information sharing."
Parsons said the town's "biggest role" will be scheduling and advertising the forums as well as setting up for Planning Works "stakeholder interviews" with individuals and focus groups.
"We want the UDO process to be inclusive, transparent, challenging and rewarding," he said.
"Creating a UDO is a dynamic process that works best when participants understand and visualize alternative outcomes," he said. "Working with the community, we will draft a UDO that turns its vision into reality. We're looking forward to getting started."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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