PELETIER — Town commissioners voted 3-2 Monday night to rezone Silver Creek Golf Course for residential development, but will have to do it again next month to make it stick.
The three “yes” votes were one shy of the four needed for final approval of a rezoning request during the panel’s monthly meeting in town hall off Highway 58.
As a result, town attorney John Tantum said a second vote is required at the Monday, April 1 board meeting, and a simple 3-2 vote at that time will be sufficient to rezone the 200-acre course from B-1 (general business) to R-20 (residential, minimum lot size 20,000 square feet) and clear the way for up to 220 single-family home lots.
Commissioners Larry Rhue, Dan Taylor and David Bragg voted for the rezoning Monday, with Bill Norris and Alice Dunn in the minority.
There was no public hearing during the meeting Monday, as one had been held on golf course owner Eddie McNeill’s request during the February board meeting, when commissioners tabled the proposal. It was originally for R-15 (15,000-square-foot lots) and could have resulted in 335 residential lots.
Speaking during public comment Monday night, before the discussion of the rezoning request, Phil Coulson, who lives just outside of town in Silver Creek Estates, urged the board to adopt R-35 zoning (35,000-square-foot-lots) for the property instead of R-20, thus further reducing the number of lots.
Mr. Coulson said it would be allowed under Peletier’s zoning ordinance, even though, he said, the board previously said it wasn’t.
“I hope before you make this decision, you’ll consider this,” he said.
When the board turned a few minutes later to its discussion of the rezoning, however, Mr. Taylor said R-35 wasn’t in the ordinance and Mr. Tantum agreed.
“R-20 is the highest in our zoning book,” Mayor Dale Sowers added.
At that point, Mr. Rhue made the motion to approve R-20 and it received the 3-2 positive vote. But discussion again turned to the R-35 zone.
“It (the ordinance) doesn’t mention … R-35,” Mr. Tantum said. “It says the town can enact R-35 if it chooses to do so … but that would have to start with the planning board and then go to the board of commissioners.”
That would be a process of several months, too late to apply to this request if the board votes in April, officials maintain.
“I don’t agree with that interpretation,” Mr. Coulson replied. “I’m not saying (golf course owner) Eddie (McNeill) can’t build houses,” he said, noting R-35 would be preferable.
In fact, Section 1008 of the town’s ordinance states that the only residential zones used in the town when it adopted the ordinance were R-A (rural agriculture), R-20, R-15M and R-10. It states, also however, that the R-35 zone is “available,” along with R-15, which unlike R-15M, doesn’t allow mobile homes.
Mr. Coulson indicated he wasn’t finished with the discussion, which presumably could resume during the public comment section during the board’s next meeting April 1 at 6:30 p.m. in town hall.
At any rate, before the commission meeting, the planning board had already discussed creating new R-35 and R-30 zoning classifications at the direction of Mayor Sowers and commissioners.
The planning board, which met at 6 p.m., just prior to the 6:30 p.m. commission meeting, agreed to have members check with the county to learn more about its R-30 and R-35 zones and to craft language for Peletier.
Mayor Sowers told the planning board he had been looking into getting some part-time planning help for the rapidly growing town from former Morehead City Planning Director Linda Staab.
If the town is to do that, he said, he needs to know more about costs, so it can be worked into the budget for fiscal year 2019-20, which begins Monday, July 1.
In addition, planning board member Phyllis Norris has been pushing for a training session for the planning board, particularly in regard to subdivision rules.
Mayor Sowers indicated he would talk to Ms. Staab about that, too.
Planning Chairman Crystal Bird agreed it was a good idea.
“We sure do need some kind of training,” she said. “I’m sure it would be beneficial to us.”
The board of commissioners’ Feb. 4 meeting featured a public hearing on Mr. McNeill’s request and drew a crowd of more than double the town hall’s 35-seat capacity. Everyone present was allowed to comment on the rezoning request.
Almost all said they opposed the project, because they thought it would increase traffic, cause drainage problems, possibly increase pollution of the White Oak River and further crowd congested schools in the area.
The commission then tabled the vote until this week, when no deputy was present and the crowd of about 30 easily fit into town hall.
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.