Cape Carteret town seal

CAPE CARTERET — The Cape Carteret Planning Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend the town board of commissioners approve the latest draft of the new Unified Development Ordinance.

Planners met in the town hall off Dolphin Street and virtually via GoToMeeting.

Commissioners are expected to consider the planning board’s recommendation during their monthly meeting Monday at 6 p.m. in town hall and on GoToMeeting.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed UDO during their meeting.

To learn how to participate virtually, visit the town website: townofcapecarteret.org.

The commission, after years of talking about developing a UDO to replace its outdated zoning and development regulations, earlier this year hired a consulting firm to guide the process, with input from the planning board and an appointed UDO committee. The town hired the firm Summit Design and Engineering Services of Hillsborough for $20,236.80 to help with the effort.

Before the meeting Tuesday night, the planning board had reviewed, but not yet recommended, approval of multiple drafts prepared by Summit and its representative on the project, Anne Darby.

The key decision by the board Tuesday was how to handle open space requirements in future developments, especially residential ones.

The current town ordinance has allowed the town to require developers to reserve up to 30% of a project’s acreage as open space for recreation and infrastructure. Developers and town officials have agreed that percentage is too high.

Ms. Darby presented an alternative Tuesday that replaced a complex calculation table to determine how much open space should be required with a simple process that would give town commissioners, who have the final say, more leeway.

But Susan Hall, chairperson of the planning board, didn’t like that, as she said the calculations table has generally served the town well. Instead, after discussion, the board agreed to keep using the table to get the minimum requirement but to change maximum amount of open space that could be required to 5% of the total project acreage.

Ms. Hall noted that there are very few large undeveloped spaces left in the town, the largest of which is 23 acres. At the 30% level, the town could require anyone who develops that tract to reserve 6.9 acres of it for open space. At 5%, that would change to 1.15 acres.

Board member Sarah Wax made the motion to approve the change and it passed. The UDO, as under the existing ordinance, would allow developers to pay the town cash in lieu of reserving open space.

Ms. Hall said it is clear to her that the UDO is not etched in stone and will need to be “massaged” by the planning board and commissioners after the town updates its land-use plan, a process also to be guided by Summit.

“We’ll need to go back and make changes,” she said.

Town Manager Zach Steffey, who was in the planning board meeting, agreed.

After more discussion of a couple other issues, the board recommended approval of the UDO.

The document, when adopted, will also bring the town into compliance with a 2019 state rewrite of local planning and development rules, Chapter 160D.

The revised general statutes combine previous chapters and changed rules local governments must follow in the development, zoning and land-use appeals processes. The law is in effect now, and local governments were supposed to adopt changes by July 1. Cape Carteret missed that deadline, which town officials had set as a goal.

 

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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