Buncombe planning board begins zoning process (again)

In response to a court ruling that struck down the county’s zoning ordinance, the Buncombe County Planning Board met this morning to begin the approval process, which may take months and involve changing the zoning of dozens of properties, anew.

The court struck the 2007 ordinance down on two grounds. The first involved the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, which, the court said, had not given the public adequate notice before holding a hearing on zoning. The second reason, however, involves the Planning Board, which the ruling declared had not had time to analyze the proposed zoning map.

“My understanding is that the commissioners want to do it right — quickly, but not at the expense of doing it properly — so we’ll take our time,” Assistant County Attorney Michael Frue told the planning board. “My understanding is that they want the proposed zoning coordinates to stay the same as they are now.”

However, county planner Debbie Truempy said that there were “dozens” of parcels that could be considered “spot zoning” and would probably need to be revised — that is, changed to match surrounding zoning. She said there could be as many as 397 such properties that need to be reviewed.

“I know a lot of people came in and said, ‘I want to be whatever,’ and they’re the only parcel around that’s like that,” Truempy said. “I’m going to go back through those. If there’s one or two parcels there all by themselves, we need to roll it back.”

Planning Board member Joe Sechler asked what happened in the meantime.

“It seems like they [property owners] are standing there with their teeth in their mouth wondering what happens during this time,” he said. “Does anything change for their status and zoning? What are we doing to communicate the process to the public?”

Frue said there would be two countywide mailings to along with newspaper announcements, as well as putting the zoning map on the county Web site.

“Well, if a citizen comes up to me and asks what their status is now during this interim period, what’s my answer?” Sechler continued.

“In the interim, there is no zoning,” Frue replied.

“So can that person in the interim go build or do something the zoning wouldn’t normally allow?” Sechler finished.

“If they get a valid building permit before we get zoning reinstated, then yes,” Truempy said.

The Planning Board will have to hold a public hearing after if reviews the revised zoning map. They will meet next Monday to consider the maps, and vote about two weeks afterward.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on — and vote — on a moratorium on 14 “undesirable” property uses while zoning is reinstated this Friday, April 3, at 2 p.m. in the Commissioner’s Chambers at 30 Valley St.

— David Forbes, staff writer



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