State court rules Buncombe County zoning, multifamily condo ordinance invalid

The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled that Buncombe County’s zoning and multi-family condominium ordinances are invalid, asserting that the Board of Commissioners failed to give proper notice for the public hearings on those matter. At press time, the board was scheduled to meet in closed session on March 24 to decide whether to appeal the decision.

“The clear and unequivocal language of the zoning ordinance requires at least fifteen days notice prior to the public hearing on any amendments to the [Zoning] Ordinance,” the ruling reads. “The record reveals that County only provided fourteen days notice.”

According to the ruling, the county printed notice of the public hearing on zoning in the Asheville Citizen-Times on April 10 and 17, 2007, and held the hearing on April 24, 2007.

The court also ruled, in a separate lawsuit filed by the same plaintiffs, that the multifamily ordinance, enacted on March 8, 2007, was not properly advertised to the public and thus is also invalid.

That ordinance establishes tougher guidelines for development located 2,500 feet above sea level, and even more stringent rules for development above 3,000 feet.

The ruling also took issue with the more than 400 changes to the zoning map that the county’s planning staff made just before the public hearing, noting that “in its headlong rush to adopt the amendments to its ordinance, County violated” the requirement that such changes be fully considered by the planning board.

The lawsuit was filed by attorney Albert Sneed, a prominent zoning opponent, on behalf of Lott Partnership II, developers who own land in the eastern part of the county.

The three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals heard the case last August, after Superior Court Judge James Downs had initially dismissed the lawsuit.

To read the court rulings, go to www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles.

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