February 26, 2015

Tri-villages zoning initiative begins with March 5 workshop

A March 5 workshop in Rodanthe is the first step in the process of use-specific zoning for the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo. The Dare County Planning Board and the staff of the Planning Department will host the workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building.

"The workshop will be in an open-house format to allow citizens and property owners to interact with the Planning Board and staff in an informal setting," according to a news release.

Residents and non-resident property owners are invited to attend to discuss their ideas and make comments and suggestions on the future of the tri-villages. The staff will also provide an overview of how the zoning process works.

In a Sept. 2 meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, chairman Warren Judge said the county had received a letter from the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Civic Association, asking to start the planning process for use-specific zoning in the tri-villages.

All of unincorporated Dare County has what is called "dimensional" zoning that governs such issues as height of buildings and setbacks from roads or septic systems. However, such zoning is not use-specific but allows any use on all parcels of land with very few restrictions.

Many in the tri-villages found this out the hard way last June when a company got the go-ahead from the Board of Commissioners to build a concrete plant in Waves. The board said, in this case, that it had no recourse under the zoning laws but to allow the use, though it did set some conditions on such things as fencing, noise levels, and operating hours.

Civic association president Mark Dingman said in September that there had been discussions among residents about zoning since the hot debate about the concrete plant, so the group moved ahead to ask the county to begin looking at the issue.

Dingman said that the civic association was very careful to say that it does not "favor" or endorse zoning, but instead sees its role as assuring "the best treatment" for all villagers if the process does proceed.

Dare County, though, is not in the habit of forcing zoning on communities, but has instead chosen to work with those where the majority favor it. In September, the board instructed county planning director Donna Creef  to gauge the interest in and support for site-specific zoning.

In late November, property owners and businesses in the tri-villages got a letter in the mail, which was signed by seven residents, non-resident property owners, and/or owners of businesses.  They are Chip Walton, Judy Sagan, and John Griffin of Salvo, Trip Forman and Chandra Rutledge of Waves, and Don Babin and Cecelia Caretti of Rodanthe.

The letter urged all who got it to petition the Dare County Planning Department to "initiate the process to improve current zoning" of the villages. In the letter, the signers made reference to the concrete plant and said that "the time has come to develop a positive growth plan for our villages."

Creef said that she had 266 responses from the tri-villages about starting the zoning initiative -- 264 were in favor and two were opposed.

The Thursday workshop is the first of what will be a number of community meetings on the initiative, which is aimed at zoning through consensus.

If a  zoning plan for the tri-villages is developed, it would eventually go to the Planning Board for a vote and would have to be approved by the Board of Commissioners, which is required to have a public hearing.

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