By Paul T. Choate
Oct. 17, 2012. Despite the Planning Commission’s recommendation to leave things as they are, the Boone Town Council decided yesterday to temporarily limit downtown building heights to 40 feet in a 3-2 vote.
On Sept. 20 the council voted to schedule a special public hearing for Tuesday, Oct. 16, to discuss changes to the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The public hearing took place at 5 p.m., followed by a special meeting of the Planning Commission at 5:30 p.m.
Following a rousing discussion, the Planning Commission narrowly decided to leave building height regulation as they were set on a 4-3 vote.
Prior to the council’s ruling last night building height regulations for the B-1 Central Business district were set at 44 feet as a primary height maximum and 67 feet as a secondary height maximum. The new 40 foot regulation is considered a “stopgap” measure to prevent any large buildings being developed while the town continues to work on new regulations for building heights. It is estimated that the process could take as long as nine months before new regulations are developed.
Council members Rennie Brantz, Jamie Leigh and Lynne Mason cast the three votes to approve the new regulations, with members Andy Ball and Allan Scherlen voting to deny.
“I think we have a responsibility to the community to preserve the character of our town,” Mason said.
Leigh agreed, saying she felt the stopgap was greatly needed so that “nothing horrible happens to the character of our downtown in the meantime.”
Scherlen argued that a higher maximum height regulation “ironically might be more in character because older buildings have higher ceilings.” He also mentioned that at 44 feet, it might allow more flexibility in the construction process.
“I don’t think setting a bar at 40 [feet] accomplishes anything in terms of growth or in terms of responsible development,” Ball said. He also said he felt there has not been enough discussion on the matter and that things should not be changed until the Planning and Inspections Department looks into appropriate regulations further.