Tuesday, December 6, 2022

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Graham, NC 27253
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Planning board endorses rule change that could end industrial rezoning spat

Burlington’s planning and zoning commission has given its blessing to a proposed rule change that could nullify a neighbor’s objection to a rezoning request that recently came before Burlington’s city council.

Last week, the city council had been set to vote on a request for light industrial zoning that Jack Burton has sought for 17.22 acres at 1601 Anthony Road that’s now zoned for medium industrial use.

Burton told the council that he had only applied for this change in order to transfer a trailer sales operation from its current location in Graham to property that he owns along Anthony Road. Unfortunately, Burton’s property in Burlington is inside a medium industrial zone, where vehicle sales aren’t presently permitted – prompting him to ask for a light industrial classification instead.

The council ultimately deferred its decision on Burton’s request after an attorney for an adjacent property owner pointed out that this change would require his client to leave a 30-foot buffer between his medium industrial property and Burton’s newly re-designated light industrial tract. The neighbor’s attorney added that this extra requirement could vitiate any one of the “ten” proposed projects that various developers are contemplating on his client’s property.

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A possible way out of this impasse emerged during the planning commission’s meeting on Monday, when Jamie Lawson, the city’s planning director, presented some potential revisions to the city’s unified development ordinance. Among these proposed amendments was one that called for automobile sales and rentals to be folded into the list of allowable uses for a medium industrial zone.

Burlington planning director Jamie Lawson during a recent city council meeting.

Lawson told the commission’s members that this potential new use would not be entirely out of character with the uses already allowed in this district.

“It would be compatible with automobile repair and automobile towing and storage lots,” she explained, “which are permitted in both LI [light industrial] and MI [medium industrial zones].”
Lawson pitched this potential amendment to the commission along with two other possible rule changes. One of these proposals would increase the allowable size of a mother-in-law apartment or some other “accessory residence” from 35 to 50 percent of the primary residence’s size. The other proposal would allow speakers at drive-thru restaurants to be within 50 feet of the nearest neighboring dwelling – rather than 50 feet from that dwelling’s property line, as the rule currently stands.

The commission ultimately voted 4 to 2 to recommend all three of these changes to Burlington’s city council. Voting in favor of the amendments were James Kirkpatrick, John Black, Charlie Beasley, and Patricia Gamble. The commission’s chairman Richard Parker and Joan Zec Nelson voted against the package of proposals.

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