Cape Carteret adopts unified development ordinance, looks to complete land-use plan update by July

Cape Carteret commissioners Monday night adopted a unified development ordinance to streamline and declutter development rules for projects like this new Starbucks, under construction off Highway 24 in town. (Brad Rich photo)

CORRECTION: This article was updated at 3:49 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, to reflect the UDO vote by the Cape Carteret Planning Board in September was not unanimous, as previously reported. The motion passed 3-1, with member Paxon Holz in opposition and two members absent.

CAPE CARTERET — Cape Carteret commissioners Monday night unanimously adopted the town’s first unified development ordinance, culminating a process that began in January with the hiring of a consulting firm to guide the project.

The 5-0 vote came during the board’s monthly meeting in town hall off Dolphin Street and virtually via GoToMeeting.

Commissioner Mike King said development of the document – which replaces the old zoning ordinance and development regulations – was “a difficult task,” guided by Summit Design and Engineering Service of Hillsborough, the town planning board and a special committee appointed by commissioners.

“In the end, it really changes very little … but it’s a much easier document to work with,” Mr. King added. “Now you can find things.”

Commissioner Jeff Waters agreed, but also said the UDO is a work in process and there will be changes.

“Please be patient with us,” he said to residents and developers. “Patience is a virtue.”

The planning board voted 3-1 last week to recommend approval of the UDO, which replaces what officials have called a hodge-podge of rules that often weren’t cross-referenced and included duplications and contradictions. Member Paxon Holz voted in opposition. 

The town paid Summit $20,236.80 for its work, which included multiple drafts by the firm’s representative on the project, Anne Darby.

Among the significant changes, according to planning board Chairperson Susan Hall, is a reduction from 30% to 5% in the maximum amount of open space the town can require developers to leave in projects. The UDO, like the previous ordinance, allows developers to pay the town cash in lieu of preserving open space. The town uses money to create recreation opportunities elsewhere.

The document also brings the town into compliance with a 2019 state rewrite of local planning and development rules, Chapter 160D. The revised state general statutes combine previous chapters and changed rules local governments must follow in the development, zoning and land-use appeals processes. Most of the changes are technical, and commissioners said they generally won’t affect the way the town conducts planning business.

Next up for Summit and Cape Carteret is an update of the town’s state Coastal Area Management Act land-use plan, required by the state in all 20 coastal counties and their municipalities.

Summit’s contract for the land-use plan – a blueprint for where development should occur and what types should occur in specific locations – is for $40,082.40.

The goal for completion of the land-use plan update is July, according to Ms. Darby. She said the process is underway, with many town residents already participating by filling out an online survey about what they would like to see addressed in the plan. There will be meetings to get more public input in the future.

Town officials, including manager Zach Steffey, have said getting the UDO and the land-use plan right are essential to managing growth in town, especially in light of the state’s plan to extend Interstate 42, which will more directly connect Carteret County to the Raleigh area.

The town last updated its land-use plan in 2007. It’s supposed to be done every four years, so the revision is about four years behind schedule.

During the required public hearing Monday night before adoption of the UDO, it was clear many residents are most concerned about stormwater management and flooding. The town public works department has been addressing problems in some areas by cleaning out drainage ditches for the first time in years.

“For the last few weeks, they’ve been doing whatever they can,” Commissioner Don Miller said during the meeting.

Mayor Will Baker agreed and thanked the crew for its efforts, but said he knows the town can’t address all the problems by itself.

“If all goes well, we’ll have some grant money to throw at this stormwater thing,” he said. “I’m very optimistic.”


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

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