Commissioners approve zoning plan, Wicked Weed incentives

County planner Josh O'Conner presents the Weaverville ETJ zoning amendment

Dodging what a county attorney dubbed a “legal fog,” on a 5-2 vote on Sept. 16, Buncombe’s Board of Commissioners approved a county rezoning map for Weaverville’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. They also adopted an economic incentive for Wicked Weed Brewing on a 6-1 vote.

ETJs are land outside municipal limits but within its zoning jurisdiction — but on June 24, the North Carolina General Assembly stripped that authority from Weaverville, as it has done for other municipalities across the state; Buncombe County had 120 days  from July 1 to approve its zoning plans for the towns’s ETJ, otherwise no zoning would apply.

Several residents expressed concern for the county’s proposal, and one property owner asked that commissioners reconsider — leading two commissioners to vote no.

“I think the map that was sent out is kind of deceptive,” said resident Thor Orr of information the county sent to ETJ property owners. “It doesn’t have any streets listed. I actually had to spend about 10 minutes to decipher the roads.

“I don’t want 12 living facilities on one acre of land,” he continued, noting that the zoning proposal would allow up to 12 residences per parcel. “I feel it’ll bring our nice out-of-town living down. I don’t really want a townhouse near me. I like not having everyone on top of me.”

“I’m just wondering what this all means to our neighborhood,” said resident Gary Kallback. “We love the area, and right now the roads are starting to get a little more busy, and we’re worried about losing our identity. We like to have space, but not be rude. There needs to be more thought into some of this.”

County Planner Josh O’Conner responded that “the maps were in an 8-by-11 [inch] format,” making it difficult to provide a totally legible map for  the large area covered; he noted that details were available on the county’s website, or residents could call to request a larger map.

O’Conner also said that the units-per-acre was theoretical: “On any zoning district other than open-use in Buncombe, once you hit a third home on a single parcel, [that] triggers a conditional-use permit, a higher standard of review, public comment and evidence for or against whether the land can support it.

“Very rarely do we see that,” O’Conner added. “I don’t think there’s really going to be too much a change in density. This zoning is more designed for rural areas.”

But one piece of land was apparently miszoned.

“There was a zoning amendment which I believe took place back in January that was not relayed to us,” said O’Conner. The town of Weaverville had approved a rezoning of the property from residential to commercial use, but when the county received the zoning information, this change was not listed.

“At this time we can’t make a change without jeopardizing the validity of this action,” said O’Conner. “But we’re going to work with the property owner if he so desires.”

The property owner, Keith Roberts, has a $2.5 million sale contract that’s at jeopardy because of the mistake, said his attorney, who proposed either changing the zoning or taking the land out of the zoning plan entirely.

“As with most things in life, timing is essential,” said Roberts. “And we have a time deadline for our contract. I feel like it’s unfair for me to have to go through the [rezoning] process again. It’s been six months with [the town of] Weaverville. I need to get this resolved tonight. We’ve been planning this a long time. I don’t want my family to be financially handicapped because of an oversight.”

However, county Senior Attorney Michael Frue told commissioners that making changes or postponing the zoning plan could set a bad precedent: “We have a zoning ordinance and we’ve been following it for several years. There’s a boatload of casework that says if the [Board of Commissioners] does not follow its ordinances, the action could be invalid. That’s the risk. It’s not just these owners. Anyone in the county can say, ‘They did not follow procedures.’”

O’Conner said, “There’s not statute of limitation — a procedural change can be challenged in perpetuity so … we would never have any level of comfort if we weren’t to follow procedure. Someone could say, ‘You didn’t do it right back in 2014.’”

Frue added that he was confident the problem could be fixed, a proposal presented to the county’s zoning board and the issue brought back by commissioner’s next meeting, Oct. 21. “If we go down the other road —changing it tonight, or sending it back as a whole — it worries me that we’ll be going into a legal fog. The potential for having invalid zoning is there.”

With this information, Commissioners Mike Fryar and Joe Belcher expressed new concerns about approving them amendment.

“I was for it when I walked through the door,” said Fryar. “The more I hear about it and hear from the people, the more I want to see. I don’t see why would couldn’t put to total package on the 21st at our next meeting, and get everything settled on the [miszoned] parcel.”

Nevertheless, the amendment passed 5-2, with Fryar and Belcher opposing.

Wicked Weed incentive approved

The commissioners also passed a motion giving nearly $75,000 in economic incentives to Wicked Weed to build a new facility on 145 Jacob Holmes Way. Wicked Weed owner Rick Guthy said that the organization was pouring $4.2 million into the facility — $1.3 million for the building and $2.9 million for the equipment.

He also said the the brewery could provide more than the 75 full-time positions it must commit to in order to receive the incentive. “I believe [the number of jobs] will be much higher,” Guthy said.

Wicked Weed can buy the building at any time before March 2018, but it does have the option of renting the buildings for a two-and-a-half year period leading up to that date. The incentive totals $74,625.

The motion passed 6-1, with Belcher the lone nay vote, saying he could “not vote for extending incentives to the beer and alcohol industry.”

In other business:

Commissioners appointed Christopher Bradford to the Industrial Facilities and Pollution Control Financing Authority, Loring McIntyre to the Agriculture Advisory Board, Angie Pittman to the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative, and Donald Streb and Claudia Sherry to the Adult Care Home Community Advisory Board.

The commissioners also unanimously passed a funding measure for $325,000 for Oak Hill Commons, a 75-unit, mixed-income apartment complex to be constructed off New Leicester Highway. The new complex will have 38 affordable units, 13 Section 8 housing units, and 24 one-bedroom hard-to-house units (hard-to-house people are defined as the 10 percent most chronically homeless residents).

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