Monday, June 24, 2024

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How many neighbors should get notice about proposed rezonings?

Burlington planning board suggests all property owners within 400 feet of proposed rezoning receive mailings, a 100-foot expansion

Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has recommended that the city should cast a wider net when it notifies neighboring landowners of a pending rezoning request that’s slated to come up for review before the city’s elected leaders.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Monday, the commission’s members unanimously proposed an 100-foot increase in the 300-foot radius where the city presently mails notifications before a rezoning request comes up for a public hearing before Burlington’s city council.

Under state statute, cities and counties are merely required to mail notices to “abutting” property owners ahead of a rezoning hearing before the jurisdiction’s governing board.

Burlington already goes above and beyond this mandate by using a 300-foot radius to determine the extent of the notices. The city also relies on this radius to distribute notices ahead of the planning and zoning commission’s meetings, despite the fact that the state requires no mailed notification at all at this stage of review.

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Burlington’s notification provisions nevertheless fall short of some other jurisdictions in North Carolina. This unfavorable comparison was evident enough to the commission’s members when they received a statewide overview of these rules from the city’s planning manager Conrad Olmedo.

In response to an earlier request from the commission, Olmedo contrasted Burlington’s notification radius with the requirements in 16 counties and municipalities for which he was able to obtain information. According to Olmedo, three of the municipalities that responded to his inquiries go no further than the state’s statutory requirements, while the remaining 13 jurisdictions use of a radius of 100 to 1,000 feet to alert property owners about public hearings before their governing boards – and 10 of them also mail out these notices at the planning board level.

The city’s planning manager went on to concede that the 13 cities and counties which exceed the state’s mandates use an average notification radius of 400 feet. Burlington’s position “on the low end” of this scale drew admissions of disappointment from planning commission member Joan Zec Nelson as well as the group’s vice chairman John Black.

“I think that letting [more] people know up front…saves us more headaches down the road,” Black went on to declare in response to Olmedo’s report.

This same conclusion was echoed by fellow commission member James Kirkpatrick, who admitted he was initially skeptical of the vice chairman’s interest in broader notification provisions.

“But Mr. Black, you turned me,” Kirkpatrick added. “It’s all about the public…and I didn’t used to think that.”

Kirkpatrick went on to propose an expansion of the city’s 300-foot notification radius.

Nelson, for her part, suggested a 400-foot radius, which the rest of the commission voted 6-to-0 to recommend to the city council as a new limit for its own public hearing notifications.


Other local municipalities
In Mebane, the city uses Burlington’s current radius of 300 feet. Development director Cy Stober elaborated on some of the details, “Should a right of way be in that radius, we have an obligation to include the next available neighbor beyond that right of way. This often comes up for properties along the interstate or the NC Railroad. The letters must be sent out 10 – 25 days prior to the public hearing,” Stober added.

“For planning board meetings,” Stober explained, “we send letters to property owners within 300 feet of a subject property 10 – 25 days prior to the planning board meeting and post signs on the property. However, the meeting date is only noted on the signs for the formal public hearing before the city council or board of adjustment.” Advertising notices are run, as required by North Carolina General Statutes, for the formal public hearing.

In Graham, the city council there recently expanded the radius of notification letters for rezonings from 100 feet to 150 feet, although for special use permits, Graham uses a 500 feet radius, according to Justin Snyder, Graham’s planning director. The mailed notices go out prior to the planning board meeting, he added.


Planning board agrees to recommend business rezoning on Alamance Road south of interstate:

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