Dependable Erection

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rubber stamp commission

From N&O's Bull's Eye blog:
The Durham County Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning request last night to allow up to 33,500 square feet of commercial development on nearly 10 acres on Glenn School Road.

Commissioners Joe Bowser, Brenda Howerton and Chairman Michael Page voted in favor of the rezoning, which changes the zoning from rural residential to allow for a yet-to-be defined commercial development between Glenn Road and Interstate 85.

Commissioners Ellen Reckhow and Becky Heron voted against the change, saying they wanted more details about the development that would be a gateway to East Durham.

Development representative Ronald Horvath said property owners couldn’t provide specific details because they are talking to different potential buyers and exploring three or four possible uses. Those uses include a small hotel, a sit-down restaurant, a gas station, and a fast food restaurant, all intended to serve I-85 traffic, he said.

Emphasis mine.

Is it too damn much to ask of our elected officials that they at least find out what the hell it is they're approving when they approve rezoning requests like this? Do we really need another Quickie Mart with a Subway off the freeway in east Durham? Is this really what passes for economic development in the minds of our county commissioners?

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  • I don't even know why we have a Planning Commission if the BoCC never heeds their advice.

    By Blogger Rob, at 3:30 PM  

  • There was a little side note in Ray's H-S piece linked to yesterday that i found interesting.

    Catotti also complained that the council is having to weigh in "another very large project" on the edges of the city zoned by the County Commissioners.

    The land was just outside the city limits when commissioners, with two votes zoned it in December 2007 and October 2008. The city has since annexed the site, clearing the way for it to receive water and sewer.

    Catotti's comment alluded to a similar annexation request facing the city for the controversial 751 South project.

    Durham is somewhat unusual for allowing developers working land on the edges of town to essentially forum-shop zoning requests between the City Council and the County Commissioners, going to whichever one they consider more likely to approve a project.

    Many other cities in the state hold what's "extra-territorial jurisdiction" over the zoning of county land they're likely to annex, which ensures that when they're on the hook for providing major services to a site, they also control the major decisions about its use.

    Durham, however, did away with the city's extra-territorial powers in 1988 as part of the merger of the former city and county planning departments, City/County Planning Director Steve Medlin said.

    So, when we shake our heads and mutter "only in Durham," we're righter than we knew.

    By Blogger Barry, at 3:35 PM  

  • Barry,

    Actually we supposedly have a zoning ordinance designed such that property owners do not need to ask "Mother May I?" whenever they wish to make use of their land.

    If the zoning in place does not match the Comprehensive Plan, the property owner goes as far as he/she needs to in simply requesting that their district designation be corrected to match the Comp Plan.

    Of course, if the County (or you) have an interest in controlling that particular piece of land, that is always an option. Buy it.

    By Blogger Tar Heelz, at 11:34 PM  

  • My understanding, and i could be wrong here, is that 1) the previously existing zoning matched the usage that the CP had envisioned for this tract and 2) the Durham Planning Commission, which is admittedly an advisory only body, opposed the rezoning.

    I was fascinated to learn in Ray's article about the venue shopping that developers are allowed to engage in in Durham and, apparently, not in most other municipalities in NC.

    It's a pretty facile thing to say that if you don't like what someone wants to do with a piece of land, buy it. Unfortunately, in the real world, that's generally not feasible. But you and i, and out children, will end up paying many of the costs associated with these incredibly short sighted decisions made by some pretty careless people on our elected boards.

    Come with me on a trip to the place where i grew up sometime. I'll show you literally dozens of strip malls and junk food outlets that have been nothing but vacant parking lots for a couple of decades. Property taxes on Long Island are approximately 5 times what they are in Durham. Poor planning decisions here will, eventually, have that impact. It will be interesting to hear what you have to say then.

    By Blogger Barry, at 11:45 PM  

  • What I'm suggesting is that we've already adopted a UDO and Comp Plan that set out what we would like to see at certain places. Enforce this.

    If the proposal presented conforms to the Comp Plan (ie the policy objectives for development adopted by both the County and the City), what more should the property owner be required to do?

    I'd suggest nothing.

    While buying the property is not always feasible (but often, in fact, is), text amendments to the Comp Plan or UDO are always available upon a determination by our elected officials that these instruments in some fashion no longer match our needs or desires.

    The current paradigm of "You are not allowed to use your land for anything (not even things noted as ok in the Comp Plan), until and unless the entire communtiy weighs in on your private business plan is -- well -- insane.

    By Blogger Tar Heelz, at 12:31 PM  

  • The CP isn't worth the paper it's written on.

    By Blogger Barry, at 4:02 PM  

  • It had better be. Without it, neither the City nor County is authorized to enforce the regulation of development in this county.

    Abandon your comp plan and you're only moments away from a challenge to any sort of zoning ordinance restriction upon private property.

    PS - In 2005 this community spent months and months on the Comp Plan re-write. That was again visited in 2009. Is it just your personal gripe that you don't like this plan?

    By Blogger Tar Heelz, at 11:10 PM  

  • It appears that all one need to do to have land rezoned for a purpose that was not assigned to it in the CP is present a case to the Board of County Commissioners.

    By Blogger Barry, at 4:18 AM  

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