Change is good

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

GATESVILLE – Two measures currently in the works should prove beneficial to Gates County property owners.

At their Aug. 1 meeting, the Gates County Board of Commissioners discussed and approved a measure that will allow the placing of a mobile home in a R-1 zone, pending the granting of a special use permit, and recommended to the Planning Board a suggestion calling for the implementation of a 90-day moratorium on the fee currently charged for rezoning request applications in an effort to ensure all properties within the county are zoned correctly.

Referencing those wishing to place a mobile home in a residential area, Jordan said requests for waivers for rezoning of property have come before the board several times over the years.

“Each time that request is made we wind up waiving a $600 fee,” Jordan stated. “I would like to propose to you that we should make a zoning ordinance change that would allow the use of mobile homes in residential areas under special use permits.”

He continued, “One of the concerns we have had in the past is that we don’t want mobile homes to downgrade adjacent properties. Under a special use permit, that would be considered. It would not be an arbitrary thing where you could just put one there, but at least if the neighborhood permits it, if the other properties are conducive to that, then certainly it would be of benefit to our citizens to allow that to happen.”

Jordan asked his colleagues to approve the following changes to the zoning ordinance, pending review and approval of the Gates County Planning Board:

Revise the table of permitted uses in the zoning ordinance to allow mobile homes (singlewides and Class A doublewides) in R-1 zoned districts by special use permits. Currently, mobile homes are not allowed in an R-1 district.

Lower the cost of a special use permit from the current $500 to $100.

Jordan stated that even at $100, a special use permit remains as somewhat of a risk for citizens.

“If the Board of Adjustments decides this request is not conducive to put a mobile home there, the applicant is out $500 or $100, whatever the fee is,” Jordan stressed. “We have to also make sure that the county recoups some of its expenses by paying the Board of Adjustments to make such considerations.”

If the Planning Board sends the approved changes, or make suggestions to tweak the wording, back to the commissioners, a public hearing would need to be scheduled to weigh citizen input on those proposed changes. Jordan said he would like that public hearing to be held at the commissioners’ next evening meeting (scheduled for Sept. 17).

“One of the issues with this has been the possibility of downgrading traditional residential neighborhoods with mobile homes,” said Commission Chairman Graham Twine. “The special use permit in these situations is a good idea, it gives us a system of checks and balances. Allowing this does mean someone will occupy that property, they will be paying property taxes no matter what type of home is there. I support what Henry is saying and I’d like to see us move forward with this.”

“I concur; I’m 100 percent in support of this,” said Commissioner John Hora. “I’ve stated many times that we want to have nice neighborhoods, but we must be sensitive to those who are less fortunate. We need to encourage our citizens to make investments and make the most of their opportunities. There are many Gates County citizens who started out in a mobile home and now there are nice houses on those same lots.”

Hora continued, “Most anything can be made to look nice, it’s all a matter of a person’s character and how they treat their property. With these special use permits I would hope adjacent landowners would be involved in the decision making process.”

Jordan put both his suggestions into a motion, seconded by Commissioner Kenneth Jernigan and was approved by unanimous vote.

In the second part of his presentation, Jordan said there are obvious situations in the county where properties are inaccurately zoned. He suggested the implementation of a 90-day moratorium on rezoning fees to allow the citizens of Gates County to request a change in their zoning designation. Currently, property owners wishing to a change in zoning pay a $600 application fee per parcel.

“During that 90-day period we will ask the Planning Board to look at those zoning change requests, ensure the feasibility of making those changes and revise the zoning map to reflect those changes upon bringing this back before the commissioners and getting final approval,” Jordan said.

He added that once the 90-day period has expired, the $600 fee will be reestablished.

“We need to get our zoning map correct so we do not have to keep addressing these types of issues,” Jordan stressed.

Commissioner Jack Owens said he liked that idea, but wanted to ensure that property owners wishing to take advantage of the moratorium were notified well in advance of this opportunity.

“We can use the (Gates County) Index and post it on the county’s website,” Owens suggested. “I’d like to see us publish it twice in the newspaper before the 90-day period begins. I want them to have full knowledge of when this moratorium begins instead of having them wait to find out when the clock starts ticking to count down those 90 days.”

County Manager Toby Chappell suggested that the 90-day moratorium could begin shortly after the second notice was published in the newspaper.

Jordan included that suggestion in his motion to call for a 90-day moratorium on the fee charged for making an application for a rezoning change. County Planner Morgan Jethro interjected that because this issue is a modification to the zoning ordinance, it is required to first go before the Planning Board for their recommendation and then sent back to the commissioners.

“We can get this back to you by your Sept. 5 meeting,” Jethro said.

Jordan revised his motion to have the matter sent to the Planning Board for their review. Jernigan offered a second and the measure passed without objection.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal