County Planners Working Out Rezoning Details

SNOW HILL – Work continues on the assessment of public comments made by citizens on the draft comprehensive rezoning, with the Worcester County Planning Commission holding a second work session to consider public opinions last week.

The planning commission is working with staff to decide on what changes in the comprehensive rezoning should be recommended to the Worcester County Commissioners, based on public opinion expressed in a packed hearing on June 2. Written comments are also under consideration.

The commissioners have final say on any changes recommended by the planning commission.     

Many of the same issues arose at the most recent work session as the first work session.

Staff reiterated that suggestions to require percolation tests on parcels the landowner would like to draw development rights from for an adjoining parcel would be too much of a burden on the property owners. Staff also reiterated that the number of actual development rights existing on a sending parcel could be determined through mapping soils and wetlands, a less costly alternative.

The work session also considered some new items. Wind energy should be addressed after more study by a task force, along with solar energy, the planning commission agreed.

Alternate energy is changing fast, said commission member Carolyn Cummins. The task force’s scope should be broader than wind energy, and include other forms of alternate energy like solar, said county attorney Sonny Bloxom.

Vinyl porch enclosures on mobile homes at campsites cannot be allowed because enclosed areas are classified as living areas, and would violate Federal Emergency Management Agency flood regulations, the commission concluded.

The planning commission discussed some specific regional concerns.

Properties in the Showell Oxbow should stay in the neighborhood commercial zone, a change from the general business zone the properties now enjoy, staff said.

This would reduce the number and types of businesses that could be built on that land, in keeping with a focus on neighborhood businesses to serve Showell rather than more intense businesses to serve later development or the Route 113 corridor.

A request to rezone properties in the Route 589 and Griffin Rd. vicinity was not accepted. According to the comprehensive plan, development on Route 589 needs to be limited until the road is dualized, which is not on the horizon any time soon.

The Routes 589, 113 and 90 triangle also should remain unchanged and wait on the Route 589 dualization, the commission agreed. Any change there “would be very against the Comprehensive Plan,” said Cummins.

The other roads cannot necessarily handle more intense development in that area either, commission members concluded.

“Everyone needs to see how bad the access is there,” said commission member Jeanne Lynch.

The commercial area east of Stephen Decatur Middle School, which has been proposed as a shopping center, is shown in the comprehensive plan as commercial, but some object to the location across from the middle school.

Cummins suggested that the site should have to go through a specific rezoning, which would allow the issues to be aired.

“You’re dooming them to failure in getting a rezoning,” said Bloxom. “You should decide what’s appropriate zoning for the site at this point.”

The rezoning would be appropriate if the service road is realigned, said Cummins. The realignment of the service road will be further considered in August.

During last week’s work session, staff again referred to misinformation and that people had not paid enough attention to explanations.

Cummins said that a lot of the comments on the supposed subversion of the 2006 Comprehensive Plan came about because people did not remember that the County Commissioners instructed staff to hold off on some items until after the draft rezoning was complete.

“It’s also being spoken of as a change to the comprehensive plan and it’s not. There are multiple tools for implementing the Comprehensive Plan,” said staffer Phyllis Wimbrow.

“The zoning code is not the trash you can throw all these things into,” said Ed Tudor, director of the consolidated planning and permitting departments.

The planning commission will consider comments and requests on specific properties on July 16 at 1 p.m.