The Transylvania Times -

Council Discuss Changes To UDO - Brevard, NC


October 19, 2017

A presentation on the revision of the city of Brevard’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) at Monday’s City Council meeting was greeted with apprehension on the part of some council members.

“What I originally envisioned was a radical change in our ordinances,” said Councilman Gary Daniel. “So, I wonder, are we getting what we want here?”

Brevard City Planning Director Daniel Cobb said that’s a “good discussion” to have.

“At this point in the project, it is manageable for us to modify the current UDO and give you and the city a new document, but if we want to radically redo or change standards and code, that would take more time and outside assistance, and it’s more than just a zoning code update,” Cobb said. “I think the best thing to do, then, is to take a step back and look at the city overall and figure out what we want.

“And that is a question for you (city council). What do you want to come of this product? We are happy to go either direction. We can finish what we have in terms of the modified version of the UDO, but if we are to go deeper than that, it would take a little bit of outside assistance than what we have planned for right now.”

The project to modify the current UDO began in 2015, Cobb told council, based on what was working in the current UDO and what was not working.

“We came up with a zoning map and a new zoning ordinance that basically is a revised version of the UDO, took what works in the UDO based on our experience with developers over the years, and we kept a few things, and modified a few things,” Cobb said.

One of the problems with the UDO is that it isn’t “flexible” for developers, Cobb said. “It works really well in some instances, and in other situations, you just can’t make it work.”

The UDO now has eight zoning districts, and the proposed modifications will have 15.

“The intention of the new zoning map is to recognize districts that are unique,” Cobb said. “Downtown is its own district, and Pisgah Forest is zoned the same zoning district as downtown, and the proposal is for it to be its own zoning designation, so that the zoning codes can fit, because it’s a different environment than downtown.”

Floodplains, steep slopes and agricultural areas are “specifically” recognized in the modified ordinance, Cobb said.

In addition, there is the issue of the an inability to foresee the finished product.

“One of the things we are not able to do very consistently with our UDO is, if you want to build a house, say, on French Broad Street, your setback is probably 15 feet away from the front right-of-way, six feet on either side, and 25 feet from the rear, and if you have a big parcel, relatively speaking, you can put your house in a lot of different places, and there is no predictability from the city’s point of view on what to expect from that property,” Cobb said. “Yes, it will probably be residential and look like what is in the neighborhood already, but it doesn’t have to, and that’s the challenge with the predictability of outcome. There are standards that will be consistent, like sidewalks, landscaping, lighting and storm water, but the design is very much up in the air.”

In his presentation, Cobb showed a picture of a section of town he said he saw somewhere on a main street in N.C.

“It’s a good example of why these regulations matter,” Cobb said. “That’s a brick façade next to a completely stuccoed façade, next to a glass front with a stone finish on top,” Cobb said. “It doesn’t mix well.”

His hope with the revised UDO, Cobb said, is to avoid an outcome such as what the picture shows, and know what to expect, and to zone different districts “accordingly,” to get the outcome everyone wants.

“Most buildings in downtown are close to the road, and people have a sidewalk,” Cobb said. “East Main Street, for example, is 76-and-a-half feet from building front to building front, and the form you see there is buildings up to the road, sidewalks, street trees and parallel parking.

“Asheville Highway, however, is a type of form that comes from commercial development with minimal standards, and right now a building can be up against a road or 50 feet back, or one side to the other, and what you have is a form with no sidewalks but travel lanes, and a right-of-way roughly 63 feet. You can fit the entirety of Asheville Highway on Main Street, but the difference is what is next to the road; there are no sidewalks or building fronts.”

Cobb then presented an image of the building in which Blue Ridge Bakery and West Main Barber Shop on 86 and 78 W. Main Street, respectively, with a hypothetical image of a second story he added through computer animation.

“There is a lot of talk, and a lot of it is true, that there is not a lot of land available for development in terms of actual blank, green, undeveloped land, but that there is a lot of space,” Cobb said. “There are sentinel story structures all over town, and they are easy to find, so a footprint is already developed in a sense that property is already developed, and if you think outside the box, you have yourself a second story without doubling square footage, without having to add more water lines, sewer lines, and not expanding the fire and police service area. Everything is already there, and it’s an example of land versus space availability.”

The point is to balance the “potential growth scenarios” with expenditures the city would have to incur to expand the infrastructure, Cobb said.

At the close of his presentation, Cobb added that the document is written, the zoning map is done, and that the Planning Board will be giving its review next month.

Councilman Charlie Landreth asked if, “going forward,” will ideas within the modifications be tested with the community through the Planning Board, Steering Committee or another group.

Cobb said that the Planning Board will do both.

“There are a lot of administrative aspects that the Planning Board will review just as a part of the process that really have no bearing or standards in the ordinance, so it’s really just a permitting process,” Cobb said. “With the Steering Committee, if we can get everybody reenergized and present some scenarios to them, I’m hoping we can get everyone back on board.”

Daniel said he’d also like to see more input from other sources, and said he knows the modified UDO will be a “better product.”

“I feel like what we are going to end up with is something good,” Daniel said. “And it’s going to be better than what we have now, but will it be great? I would have hoped that we would have had something great, which I don’t think we are going to have because of time and resources.”

Landreth suggested that, instead of using the annual council retreat as a report of “what’s been happening,” to use it for a “forward looking” approach, and to ask, “What does Brevard look like in 10 years?”

Using that question, Landreth said the council retreat could craft “a really great zoning document that would lead us to what we want to accomplish.”

Cobb said that sounds great from a planning perspective, but he said he’s “hesitant to commit to that” because he said it requires time and money, and he hasn’t discussed that with City Manager Jim Fatland.

“But if it’s the direction council wants to go, then that makes sense, and it would be wonderful from a planning perspective, but, again, that requires time, money and priority,” Cobb said.

More from the City Council meeting will appear in Monday’s issue.


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