County to restart zoning process

Buncombe County won’t appeal a March 17 ruling that overturned its zoning and multifamily-construction ordinances, the Board of Commissioners decided after a March 24 closed session. Instead, the county will restart the lengthy process of approving the zoning ordinance. In the meantime, the commissioners said they plan to institute a moratorium on “undesirable” property uses.

The N.C. Court of Appeals ruling overturned the laws—both passed in 2007—saying there hadn’t been sufficient public notice before they were approved. The county will now relaunch the three- to four-month process of properly approving the zoning ordinance.

The ruling takes effect Monday, April 6, and as a stopgap measure, the county plans to call a moratorium on 14 “undesirable land uses” such as adult-entertainment establishments, concrete plants, junkyards and hazardous-waste sites. The board will hold a public hearing on the moratorium Friday, April 3, at 2 p.m. in the commissioners’ chamber at 30 Valley St. in downtown Asheville.

“This board is desirous of reinstating the zoning map as it existed before the court’s ruling,” said Chair David Gantt, reading a motion decided on by the commissioners. “This board is committed to a zoning plan and will pursue a moratorium on locally undesirable land uses that were controlled under the zoning plan.”

The board unanimously voted to instruct county staff to begin the zoning process again and set the date for the moratorium.

“This board has agreed not to support a referendum on this issue—on the moratorium or the zoning” Gantt added. “The moratorium will not affect residential homes.”

In the meantime, however, other uses prohibited by the zoning are no longer banned, and the development restrictions in the multifamily-construction ordinance are no longer in effect.

“The unanimous decision of the board was that we need to have zoning to protect our mountaintops, our steep slopes and to give communities a say in what their community looks like in the future,” Gantt said after the vote. “We did not instruct our attorney to appeal. Our board decided we would do a moratorium instead of an appeal. We’re trying to keep the status quo so no one wakes up with a concrete plant next to their home.”

The vote marked a change for Vice Chair Bill Stanley, who’d voted against zoning in 2007. The board plans to reinstate the zoning map exactly as it was on the day before the court ruling.

Meanwhile, there seem to be no immediate plans to revive the multifamily-condo ordinance.

“We are not going to appeal that,” said Gantt. “I would forecast that this board would look at ways to tackle the multifamily issue, both from the affordable-housing and ridge-top standpoints. We will look at that at some point in the future.”

The moratorium would last for 60 days, but could be extended following another public hearing.

“I would anticipate that may happen,” noted Gantt.

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