By Paul T. Choate
Sept. 18, 2012. The Boone Town Council met on Tuesday, Sept. 18, to decide, among other things, the fate of a rezoning request by Appalachian State University for four land parcels along University Hall Drive.
The parcels that were in question are adjacent and are located around 330 and 400 University Hall Drive.
The first tract of land is owned by Maurice Templeton LLC and is currently zoned B-3 General Businesses. This property is currently developed with the former Singing News building and ASU would like office space for its Human Resource Services in the building. They have already established a lease purchase agreement with Templeton for the property and are in the process of renovating the building.
The second and third tracts of land are already owned by ASU and are currently zoned R-3 Multiple Family. They are developed with a parking area and the University Hall building.
Appalachian State University Foundations, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which runs the Campaign for Appalachian, owns the fourth tract of land. At 5.8 acres, it is by far the largest tract and is currently undeveloped. It is currently zoned B-3 and a portion is subject to Business Corridor Overlay restrictions.
ASU had requested that all four parcels be rezoned to U-1 University.
In a somewhat surprising decision, Councilwoman Jamie Leigh decided to split the rezoning applications up and vote on the Singing News parcel separate from the others. She motioned that the rezoning is consistent with the comprehensive plan and that it encourages rehabilitation and redevelopment of properties. She then motioned that the parcel be rezoned to U-1. The motion passed unanimously.
Leigh then motioned that the other three parcels for which rezoning had been requested be denied because of the combined size of the parcels and the development rights that U-1 zoning would give ASU.
“I don’t think this is an appropriately located area [for rezoning] because the parcel is large enough to accommodate potentially large-scale, inappropriate development,” said Leigh.
The motion passed 3-1, with Councilman Rennie Brantz opposing.
“[This is] not because I don’t want to work with ASU on this — I want to make sure everybody knows that — but I think we need to be really careful. We’re the protectors of the town and that is a nine-acre [combined] parcel there, and my understanding was that there wasn’t any big rush on those other three parcels there — there isn’t anything waiting to happen. But there is something waiting to happen on the Singing News parcel,” said Leigh.
Leigh also added that she is in agreement with the eventual rezoning of the other three parcels, but not until a U-2 district or a better-defined U-1 district for off campus university property is created.
At a Sept. 10 special public hearing on the matter, Leigh raised multiple issues, including building height limitations if the property was zoned U-1 as well as ASU’s right to construct a dormitory or other large structure on one of the parcels if they chose to in the future.
As per article XII, section 207 of Boone’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), even if the properties were rezoned U-1, portions of them would still be subject to limitations due to being adjacent to R-3 and B-3 districts.
Planning and Inspections Director Bill Bailey clarified that anything in U-1 within 50 feet of an adjacent R-3 district would have a height limitation of 50 feet and within 50 feet of an adjacent B-3 district would have a height limitation of 44 feet. Additionally, any buildings proposed within 100 feet of an R-1, R-1A, RR, R-2, R-4 or RA (residential districts) would be limited to a maximum height of 35 feet.
When none of those regulations apply, height limitations for U-1 are governed by what the fire department deems manageable in the event of an emergency.
Because U-1 is primarily a zoning district meant for the main campus, Bailey said at the Sept. 10 hearing that there is currently a plan in place to try to create a secondary U-2 district for facilities off of the main campus such as the one desired by ASU at the former Singing News building. He said a U-2 plan had been drafted but added that it is not a quick process to create a new zoning district.
Either a U-2 district or an amended U-1 district is expected to be in place after the first of the year, at which point ASU will presumably resubmit rezoning requests for the remaining three parcels that were denied rezoning.
So, for now, ASU has the zoning rights they wanted for the Singing News parcel. As for the other three parcels, rezoning requests will probably be back on the Town Council’s agenda in early 2013.