Monday, February 6, 2023

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Graham, NC 27253
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Elon council lets landowner build new home on fragment of site zoned industrial

Elon’s town council has approved a rezoning request that allows a local property owner to construct a new home on a small remnant of industrial land along University Drive.

This zoning change, which was unanimously accepted by the council on Tuesday, confers a new, suburban “residential” designation on an acre or so of previously industrially-zoned land that Brian Wagoner owns at the juncture of Cook Road and University Drive.

Lori Oakley, the town’s planning director informed the council that Wagoner’s had once been part of a larger industrial tract that was cut in two by the construction of University Drive.

Elon planning director Lori Oakley

Oakley went on to concede that the town’s land use plan designates this property for “employment” proposes, and she acknowledged that Wagoner’s requested change would constitute “spot zoning,” although she added that the practice would be permissible in this case due to the lot’s unusual circumstances. She noted, for instance, that much of the property is within the railroad right-of-way, leaving just .66-acres that Wagoner can realistically develop.

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Oakley added that, in her view, the landowner’s request to use this property for residential purposes seems wholly appropriate.

“Staff feels there are some unique features to the property,” she said, “and it would be challenging to use the property for industrial zoning as currently provided.”

Oakley’s conclusions were later echoed by Ryan Moffitt, a local attorney in Wagoner’s employ, who assured the council that his client’s land is really not viable as industrial acreage.

Attorney Ryan Moffitt (left) with Brian Wagoner during Elon town council meeting.

“This parcel…is a little bit of quandary,” he added. “It is littered with limitations on what you can actually do…You’re certainly not going to make an industrial use of it; and you’re certainly not going to make a business use of it.

“Mr. Wagoner has been particularly resourceful and pursued this property through all the necessary departments,” the landowner’s attorney continued. “The reasonableness and the public interest [of the rezoning request] is the opportunity to make use of this land.”

The council, for its part, bombarded both Moffitt and Oakley with questions about the property owner’s precise plans for the property, delving into things like utility services and the potential configuration of the home’s driveway. Elon’s mayor Emily Sharpe eventually put a brake on this discussion by pointing out that, as with any straight rezoning request, the council has no standing to judge the particulars of Wagoner’s plans beyond the sheer suitability of the proposed zoning.

“We have a tendency to get into the weeds of things that aren’t our responsibility,” she added.

The mayor went on to opine that the property’s only viable use is as a single-family home. The council agreed and approved Wagoner’s request by a margin of 5-to-0.

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