While there was some confusion as to how to go about it, the Swansboro Board of Commissioners clearly agreed to deny a request to rezone Glancy Street property.
Discussion came at the Oct. 26 meeting of the town commission.
The property owner, The Arc of North Carolina, sought the change in order to renovate the single-family home on the lot into a duplex, according to Jennifer Ansell, town planner. (An article in the Oct. 21 Tideland News failed to clarify that intention. See related article.)
The Arc’s property at 413 Glancy St. is 0.94 of an acre, according to information provided by Ansell. The property is in a mixed-use area, across the street from Swansboro Hill Apartments, an area zoned residential-6. But on the other side, the 413 Glancy St. side, the property is zoned residential-8 single-family. The Arc sought an R-6 designation.
In this case the R-6 designation would allow for multi-family. All the homes on that side of the street are single-family.
The Oct. 26 meeting took place in a hybrid format with two members of the commission, Mayor John Davis and Commissioner P.J. Pugliese, in town hall and Commissioners Laurent Meilleur, Larry Philpott, Pat Turner and Frank Tursi, participating by way of the Zoom online platform. Cliff Parson, town attorney, was also a Zoom participant.
Swansboro Planning Board considered The Arc’s request at its Oct. 6 meeting and voted unanimously to recommend it be approved. The board of commissioners has final authority on rezoning requests. The planning board acts in an advisory capacity.
At the planning board meeting Michael Gage, property inspector with The Arc, told the planning board that the property has served as a group home for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. He said The Arc, a state agency, manages more than 400 such properties across the state.
On a question from the board of commissioners on Oct. 26, Ansell said the property use would not normally be allowed in an R-8 zone but the home, which opened in 1986, may have pre-dated zoning in Swansboro. She said it operated as a group home until 2019. Because the property had not been used for that purpose for more than 180 days, it could no longer be used as a group home.
However, since the Oct. 26 meeting, Ansell said she has learned that under the terms of the current N.C. General Statutes the group home at 413 Glancy St. could be reopened.
“Cliff confirmed that if they are operating under the parameters of a family care home … they would be permitted,” she said this week. “I have communicated that to the Arc. They would just need a fire inspection from our office to reinstate the use in the existing structure.”
Mayor John Davis said the inaccurate reporting in the Tideland News may have contributed, but he said concerns have been expressed about the rezoning. In order to be clear, he asked what would be allowed if the rezoning is approved.
Ansell said that if the property is rezoned, any use allowed in an R-6 zone would be allowed on the property. Some uses, she explained, are permitted and some are permitted by special-use, which would allow board scrutiny for approval.
Davis asked if the rezoning would contribute to “creep.” That apparently was a reference to an outcome in a rezoning in which the change contributes to a change of character in a neighborhood. In this case, multi-family use could “creep” into a single-family neighborhood.
Commissioner Frank Tursi said the commissioners would likely be setting a precedent by approving the request.
“It would make it very difficult for a future board to deny a similar request,” he said. “Once you take the first step, it is very difficult to step back.”
Parson confirmed that.
“Yes, there is concern about the ‘creep’ there, there is also concern about potential spot zoning,” he said. However, after Chris Seaberg, town manager, pointed out that R-6 is directly across the street, Parson agreed spot zoning was not a concern. “That is a good point. It is pretty good evidence that it is not spot zoning.” But, Parson added, “There is a potential for others to come,” and make a similar request.
Parson also reminded the board that if rezoned, the property could be developed for whatever R-6 allows, not just a duplex. “There could be a bit of a trickle effect,” he said.
“I have some concerns,” said Turner. “I’ve had citizens call.” She said the fear is that the change would open the door for similar requests.
Philpott said the neighborhood as it is should be the commissioners’ first concern.
“I think we need to maintain that character,” he said.
At that point the panel was presented a motion from Turner to deny the request.
Though Tursi provided a second, he asked Parson if the action to deny was even necessary. Could the commissioners simply choose to not act?
Parson indicated that inaction was an option, which seemed to satisfy Davis. At that point the mayor was reminded there was a motion on the table so he asked Turner if she would be willing to withdraw, which she was. Parson said there was no need to withdraw the second.
Email Jimmy Williams at email@example.com.