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Commissioners Unanimously Approve HILU Recommendations Before Moratorium Expires

By Jesse Wood

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved recommended amendments to the Ordinance to Regulate High Impact Land Use (HILU) on Tuesday morning.

The commissioners directed the Watauga County Planning Board and staff to revisit the ordinance after the N.C. Supreme Court upheld a state law abolishing the Town of Boone’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

In light of that law, the commissioners enacted a moratorium on high impact land use development in the town’s former ETJ in order to review its HILU ordinance. This moratorium expires on Friday, March 10.

In late February, the commissioners looked at the recommendations from the Watauga County Planning Board. Those included adding Motor Sport Facilities to the list of impact uses; increasing setbacks to the rear and side property lines; adding a two-year expiration date on HILU permits if reasonable progress of development isn’t achieved; and more. See those recommendations and a recap of that late February meeting here.

On Tuesday morning, Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman went over a few more proposed amendments, following the Feb. 28 public hearing. The new added amendments include:

  • Changing the definition of Motor Sports Facility: A facility, track or course open to the general public or accessed by more than five simultaneous riders outside of the owner’s immediate family upon which motor sports racing, racing practice or motor sports related activity is conducted and may include paved or dirt tracks, spectator seating/standing areas, concession areas, restrooms, parking facilities, and broadcast platforms or booths.
  • Pre-existing uses: The proposed amendment is to lessen the period for discontinuance of pre-existing non-conforming uses – otherwise known as a grandfather clause – to a period of 180 days, which is generally found in zoning ordinances.
  • Notice of Hearing: Because of state law, the notice of hearing posted on property and mailed to owners of neighboring properties must be posted or mailed 10 to 25 days before the date of the Board of Adjustment evidentiary hearing on a HILU permit. The commissioners agreed to post and mail those out 25 days prior. The commissioners can still post this hearing notification on the county’s website and in the newspaper 60 days prior as commissioners initially wished.

Prior to approving the amendments to the HILU ordinance, Commissioner Jimmy Hodges commended County Planning Director Joe Furman and his staff for their work on this ordinance

Commissioner John Welch added, “I understand this is a work in progress as all of our ordinances are.”

Check out the entire draft ordinance that was approved in the meeting packet here.