Morehead City, N.C.
May 5, 2021
TO THE EDITOR:
Morehead City’s Planning and Inspections Department is proposing “text amendments” to the town’s Land Use Plan that residents – including those living in the extraterritorial jurisdictions – should know about.
The Public Notice announcing these potential changes would not clue you into to their importance, as it suggests that the amendments are linked to a single rezoning proposal - the Starling / Osteen rezoning proposal that the Council will consider on May 19th. The text amendments are unnecessary to any change in the zoning of the parcel in question, however. The Council can approve a change to the zoning map for this particular parcel without any text amendments, which affect all future development and have far-reaching consequences.
The Land Use Plan serves as a guide to future development, and is expressed, in part, by “policies” stating the town’s intentions and goals. The current zoning map also is included in the Land Use Plan. While the proposed text amendments only affect three policies and represent changes to just a few words, the changes eviscerate the purpose of zoning regulations in general – to separate incompatible uses of land.
If the changes are adopted by the council, the separation of residential and commercial development would no longer be a goal of the Land Use Plan. Instead, the council would endeavor to protect existing residential neighborhoods from “high impact” commercial uses only, and “in fill development” would be encouraged – residential or commercial – whenever it is compatible in density and scale to that in the surrounding area (for example, commercial development of a vacant plot in a residential neighborhood).
The Spooner’s Creek neighborhood is singled out (Neighborhood 9) for possible further commercial development – a neighborhood currently zoned as single-family residential.
Marked versions of the “policies” follow:
4.2.7 Areas of Local Concern, General
Policy 5: The residential integrity of existing neighborhoods will be maintained by discouraging the encroachment of high impact commercial uses (traffic, noise, odors, light, etc.) non-residential uses into such areas
Policy 7: In-fill development in existing residential areas will be encouraged only if it is compatible in density and scale to that in the surrounding area.
4.2.8 Neighborhood-Specific Policies, Neighborhood 9
Policy 3: The current use, density, and building height requirements of the residential zoning classifications and for the commercial development that may be allowed in this neighborhood will be maintained to ensure the existing character of the area.
When contemplating a zoning change, the council must identify inconsistencies with the Land Use Plan, and assess the “reasonableness” of the change in light of the public interest. The proposed changes to the Land Use Plan allow the council to shortcut those steps, as virtually all changes to the existing zoning map would now be consistent with a Land Use Plan that no longer has a basic goal of separating residential and commercial development.
Is this the intent, or are we looking at the unintended consequences of piecemeal editing of a plan, done in haste to address a controversial zoning issue in front of the council, without appropriate vetting and public input?
To protect the residential nature of your neighborhood, please write the town council opposing these text amendments and attend the 5.19.21 meeting.