Letter writer: Buncombe County Planning Department proposes major change to subdivision ordinance

Graphic by Lori Deaton

For a number of years, I have been a fairly regular attendee at the Buncombe County Planning Board meetings (first and third Mondays of the month). When there are no rezoning requests or subdivisions up for preliminary approval, there are usually only two of us from the public and a Council of Independent Business Owners representative attending Planning Board meetings!

As you may be aware, all nine members of the Planning Board are recent appointees.

Recently, the Planning Department proposed changes to the subdivision ordinance in a 43-page document. One of the proposed changes would allow duplexes in the three single-family residential districts, which are R-LD (residential low density), R1 (single-family residential) and BDM (Beaverdam low-density residential district). The Planning Department justifies this proposed change by saying it would “solve a small problem”: Currently, if a resident wishes to add an independent living unit in a single-family residential district, it must be in a independent structure.

Permitting duplexes in all single-family residential districts will degrade these districts. Duplexes are currently permitted in eight other districts where they belong.

Copies of the proposed changes are available at the Planning Department on Valley Street.

To the best of my knowledge, this very significant proposed change to the Buncombe County subdivision ordinance has not been brought to the public’s attention. I hope that you will publicize this issue so that citizens have the opportunity to have their voices heard.

The Planning Board meets the first and third Monday of each month, and public comments are accepted at the start of each meeting. The meeting agenda can be found at www.buncombecounty.org (click on County Services and then Planning Board).

— Al Gumpert


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4 thoughts on “Letter writer: Buncombe County Planning Department proposes major change to subdivision ordinance

  1. Joan Walker

    I serve on the Buncombe County Planning Board and would like to make one clarification. Two living units are allowed currently in all of these districts, and as Mr. Gumpert says they must be separate units. Allowing duplexes will not increase the number of living units or presumably the number of people living on one lot, but rather will reduce the impacts and costs associated with the additional living space. Allowing an addition to an existing home, rather than requiring a stand-alone dwelling be built, puts less burdens on families and those wanting to create affordable rental units; desperately needed in our area. Also, as Mr. Gumpert says, the Planning Board meetings are open to the public so I encourage all residents of Buncombe County to attend!

    • Ron Patton

      Ms. Walker is correct in stating that allowing duplexes “puts less burden … on those wanting to create affordable rental units; desperately needed in our area.” What she fails to mention is that it also lessens the burden on those wanting to create expensive short-term rental units; desperately wanted by visitors to Buncombe county.

      If someone is a developer or investor with $$$ to spend on construction, given the choice, do you think they would build duplexes for affordable long-term rentals or pricey short-term rentals? I’d say the latter.

      With the online short-term-rental companies now collecting Buncombe county sales and hotel occupancy taxes it would seem this change would potentially put more $$$ into the county coffers.

      What will happen to the character of established neighborhoods when investors swoop in and build them out with short-term-rental duplexes targeted at tourists? It will be lost.

      The whole “we’re doing this for affordable housing” argument is a good sales pitch, but it’s false.

        • Ron Patton

          Yes they can and the county has voted to allow them. Since they are permitted, relaxing the current zoning to allow duplexes in low-density neighborhoods will just make short-term rentals more viable and numerous – to the detriment of neighborhoods. It won’t add a single unit of affordable housing but it will provide a nice new revenue stream to the county in the form of hotel and occupancy taxes.

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