County could require traffic studies for some residential projects

TACKLING TRAFFIC ISSUES: Nathan Pennington, Buncombe County's interim planning director, tells attendees of a CIBO breakfast about possible changes to the county's requirements for traffic studies. Photo by David Floyd

The Buncombe County Board of Adjustment could soon have a tool to address concerns about the traffic impact caused by large-scale residential developments.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is that they’ve sent the last three apartment complexes back to the drawing board and said, ‘You need to bring us a traffic study before we can make a decision,’” said Nathan Pennington, the county’s interim planning director, during a meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners on Feb. 2.

Pennington said county staff are recommending a change to the zoning code that would require developers of residential projects above a certain number of units to perform a traffic impact study. “We’re not telling you exactly what needs to be in it, but you need to go ahead and bring it to the Board of Adjustment,” Pennington said.

Traffic has been a common concern among commenters at Board of Adjustment meetings. The issue came to a head in December when the board approved a 296-unit apartment complex off Aiken Road, a decision that angered many people who live near the site.

The N.C. Department of Transportation also requires traffic studies for developments above a certain size. For more information, see “Buncombe residents call for brake on traffic growth.” The proposed county requirement would be in addition to DOT rules.

Pennington also said the county is planning on making adjustments to its parking table, a resource used to determine the minimum number of parking spaces required for certain types of facilities. At the moment, the list specifies parking requirements for facilities like restaurants and retail spaces as well as outdated facilities like tourist courts and sanitariums.

Most recently, the need for a change became apparent when an individual seeking to build an 18-hole miniature golf course in Buncombe County learned that he would need to put in about 300 parking spaces — one space for 50 square feet of green — to meet the requirements of the parking table.

Pennington said the Buncombe County Planning Board will discuss both of these issues at its meeting on Feb. 5. Any proposed zoning change requires a period for public comment, a public hearing and a vote of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to take effect, so this proposed change is still in the early stages.

SHARE
About David Floyd
David Floyd is the Buncombe County reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press. Email him at dfloyd@mountainx.com.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

One thought on “County could require traffic studies for some residential projects

  1. luther blissett

    The problem with numeric thresholds is that developers clearly have cookie-cutter plans designed to finagle their way around them. If the county sets its own threshold at 200 units vs NCDOT’s 300 units, then you’ll see projects for 198 units on smaller parcels instead of 296 units on bigger parcels.

    This is where form-based codes make sense: to limit developers swooping on any random parcel that comes available (they’re looking at the obituaries page for land that owners’ heirs might divest to divide the proceeds) but instead defining the areas that suit high-density development, in sync with infrastructure upgrades.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.