By Paul T. Choate
March 27, 2013. Changes to the educational districts were among the highlights at the second of three workshops regarding revisions to the Town of Boone’s Unified Development Ordinance on Monday, March 25.
The town’s Planning and Inspections Department, headed by Director Bill Bailey, along with town attorney Sam Furgiuele and the Town Council have been working on revisions to the UDO since October 2010.
The changes to the educational districts, if approved, would add two new zoning districts in addition to the already existing U-1 University District. The new districts will be classified as the E-1 Educational District and the E-2 Educational District.
Concern over a further need for clarifying the educational districts most recently arose in September 2012 when Appalachian State University requested that four parcels along University Hall Drive be rezoned to U-1.
In its current form, U-1 gives ASU expansive development rights (especially in terms of building height regulations being virtually unlimited by anything other than the fire code when buildings are more than 50 feet from R-3, O/I, B-1, B-2 or B-3 zoned properties) and council members have raised concerns over allowing parcels off the main campus to be zoned as U-1.
Because U-1 is primarily a zoning district meant for the main campus, Bailey said at the Sept. 10, 2012, hearing that there was at that time 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.
Either a U-2 district or an amended U-1 district was expected to be in place after the first of the year, at which point ASU would presumably resubmit rezoning requests for the remaining three parcels that were denied rezoning last September.
Bailey said at Monday’s meeting that the idea of a U-2 district had been thrown out in favor of the E-1 and E-2 districts.
Under the new UDO revisions, U-1 University District is established to provide for Appalachian State University (ASU), Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute (CCC&TI) and other institutions of higher learning planning and expansion to occur consistent with overall community planning and expansion. The zone will provide a means by which the Planning Commission may review and coordinate plans of the university as they may affect the general health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the Town. This district is intended to provide for the planning and expansion of ASU’s, CCC&TI’s and other institutions of higher learning main campuses that are consistent with the Town’s overall planning objectives.
The new E-1 Educational District is established to provide for appropriate ASU, CCC&TI, and other institutions of higher learning uses away from the main campus.
The E-2 Educational District is established to provide for planning and appropriate expansion of public or private elementary and secondary educational institutions such as Hardin Park Elementary and Watauga High School.
Asked by Councilwoman Lynne Mason if this would require parcels such as the Singing News property to be rezoned appropriately under the revised UDO, Bailey said he did not think that would be necessary. He added, however, that there may be incentives or added benefits to having some parcels appropriately rezoned and that parcel owners could certainly request that.
Another highlight of the Monday workshop was the revision of the town’s Table of Permissible Uses. Several specific use categories were added or augmented on the table to provide better clarification, including emergency response communication antennas, a more detailed description of types of breweries and wineries and even swine farms.
Bailey said they tried to add every conceivable thing to the table, joking that while a swine farm in the middle of town was unlikely, it’s better to have it in there than not and have people asking about it someday.
Breweries would now be classified according to size, with the revision currently listing small craft breweries (smaller than 3,000 square feet), large craft breweries (3,000-10,000 square feet) and breweries/distilleries over 10,000 square feet.
Debate was raised of whether the smallest breweries might be permitted in the Downtown Business District, especially if they operated as both a brewery and restaurant or storefront as a mixed use. The Planning Department and Town Council is expected to continue looking over appropriate zoning rights for different types of breweries going forward.
Bailey said on Wednesday that he felt council members were for the most part happy with the idea of allowing the small, mixed use breweries/restaurants or retail to be permitted downtown, but said he just felt like they wanted him to do “just a little more research.”
Emergency response communication antennas would now be permitted subject to limitation in all zoning districts. These antennas are to better assist radio communication with emergency responders in areas where radio signal is weak around town. Bailey used Lowe’s Hardware as an example of a place where one of these antennas would be needed.
As for swine farms, the table had not yet been populated on areas where those might be allowed to go.
Transitional zones were also discussed at the workshop. Under the revised UDO, transitional zones attach to each R1, R1A, RR, R2, and RA district and are designed to address the predictable negative impacts of certain uses and therefore have additional standards which must be met. A proposed use subject to a transitional zone must be approved by a Special Use Permit or with Conditional District re-zoning. A superscript “Tn” in the Table of Permissible Uses, Table of Accessory Uses or the Table of Temporary Uses denotes the specified use in the specified district is subject to a transitional zone, where “n” represents the size, in feet, of the transitional zone, measured from the boundary of the protected district. However, in the RA district, the distance is measured from the protected lot rather than the protected zone.
All proposed revisions are subject to council approval. Bailey said many of the finer details that have not been worked out as of yet will likely come up at the annual planning retreat, which has yet to be scheduled.
The third and presumably final UDO workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Council Chambers, located at 1500 Blowing Rock Road, Boone.
To view any of the proposed UDO revisions from the first two workshops, visit townofboone.net/departments/development/index.php.