By Jesse Wood
Dec. 30, 2014. With 2014 almost behind us, here’s a look back at the new or amended ordinances adopted by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners in the past year. While some ordinances were fine-tuned to standardize text, others featured more substantial changes.
February 2014: Based on recommendations from the Watauga County Planning Board, the commissioners amended the text in nine ordinances:
- Ordinance to Regulate High Impact Land Uses
- Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance
- Ordinance to Regulate Junkyards and Automotive Graveyards
- Ordinance to Regulate Wind Energy Systems
- Ordinance to Govern Structures on Land Adjacent to National Park Service Land
- Ordinance to Govern Subdivisions & Multi-Unit Structures
- Ordinance to Regulate Signs
- Height of Structures Ordinance
- Manufactured Home Parks Ordinance
Watauga County Planning Director Joe Furman said that the amendments to these ordinances were “mostly wording changes to standardize the ordinances and to bring them in compliance with state statutes,” according to meeting minutes.
Among the proposed changes, commissioners no longer hear variance requests. The Watauga County Board of Adjustments is now the variance-granting board. This change was made because the Watauga County Board of Adjustment is trained for such cases and operates in a quasi-judicial manner. The Watauga County Planning board would still hear variances related to subdivisions and trailer parks. If an appeal on regulations and ordinances pertaining to subdivisions, trailer parks and the wind energy were to occur, the commissioners would hear those appeals. Appeals to Watauga County Board of Adjustments variances would be heard in Watauga County Superior Court.
June 2014: Based on recommendations from the Watauga County Planning Board, the commissioners adopted amendments to the Ordinance to Govern Subdivisions and Multi-Unit Structures and the Sign Ordinance. The commissioners adopted the addition of a subsection, which “provide a mechanism for developers that had preliminary plats approved with 18-foot wide roads and began construction prior to the new 20-foot requirement to receive plat approval, without requesting a variance, if they meet the requirements of the new subsection,” according to a memo from Furman. In May 2012, the county previously amended the increase road width in order to be consistent with the state fire code, and due to the recession, developers halted projects and were now looking at different rules from when their plats were originally approved.
As for the amendment to Sign Ordinance, the commissioners amended the time a message must remain fixed from one hour to 15 seconds. While new electronic billboards are prohibited under the current ordinance, on-premise electronic variable message signs for business, churches and so forth are allowed.
September 2014: The commissioners adopted amendments to the Height of Structures Ordinance without changing the allowed height. The Watauga County Planning Board made the recommendation after a request from the Blue Ridge Mountain Club. “The amendment [simplifies] the method used to determine building height and allow the applicant an option to utilize the method as specified by the North Carolina Building and Residential Codes. No change would be made to the 40-foot height limitation,” Furman wrote in a memo. For more detail on this change, click here.
October 2014: County Manager Deron Geouque recommended that the Watauga County Board of Commissioners change the fee structure for disposing carcasses in the Watauga County Budget Ordinance. Before this change was made in October, the county charged $25 to dispose of large animals and $5 to dispose of small animals. Geouque said that fee began when the county buried animals at the landfill, however now animals are only disposed of at the transfer station. Commissioners approved of changing to a flat fee of $0.025 per pound – no matter the size of the animal.
December 2014: In what is now a moot point until the lawsuit between the Town of Boone and the state is settled, the commissioners adopted a 90-day moratorium on developments in the ETJ that fall under the county’s High Impact Land Use Ordinance. This recommendation was made by the Watauga County Planning Board after the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation abolishing the town’s authority in the ETJ.