Pender County Planning Board approves amendments that streamline new developments

Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 7:21 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2022 at 6:13 AM EDT
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BURGAW, N.C. (WECT) - The Pender County Planning Board met on Wednesday, July 6 and approved two zoning code amendments that streamline the process of new developments.

Trask Land Company, a local developer, submitted a proposed amendment to the county’s zoning ordinances that would allow developers to clear and grade a site before receiving final zoning approval. The amendment passed with a 3-2 vote.

“Zoning approval is the approval of an engineered site plan that releases the project for construction. . . What this text amendment would do is adds* a checkpoint before that step to allow for clearing and grading,” said County Planning Director Travis Henley, who presented the amendment. “For us to issue a clearing and grading permit, the site plan has to be in a state that we could approve it that day.”

Some requirements still need to be met to receive the clearing and grading permit: the developer must certify that their plans meet the county’s standards, show that an erosion and sedimentation control permit had been issued by the NCDEQ and submit a tree protection survey and mitigation plan if needed. While the developer could clear and grade the land, they would not be allowed to install infrastructure and would still be held to tree requirements.

Margaret Mosca and Ken Teachey voted against the approval, citing concerns about tree clearing in a discussed “worst case scenario” where the developers cleared the land and then went bankrupt. Henley said that this sort of scenario could already occur under the previous requirements, and John Gruntfest highlighted the advantages of a faster process for small businesses and families who have less time to spare.

The second amendment will reduce red tape for owners and update some of the language of the road-naming standards. Brought by the Pender County GIS and Addressing Services, this amendment would remove the requirement for a public hearing for new roads unless the county wanted to re-name a road or reassign its street numbers. The amendment passed unanimously.

According to Mike Dixon, county addressing coordinator, the amendment began when the Board of Commissioners Chairman David Piepmeyer approached the IT department with the recommendation, and the department added some of their own recommendations.

“Number one is to increase the health and safety of our citizens, to make 911 addressing a little clearer and easier to follow for our emergency personnel. We wanted to clear up ambiguous language, grant more property rights to the owners of unnamed roads and easements and align our code with current workflows and departments,” Dixon said at the meeting.

Since most new roads are created and named in subdivisions or other developments before any land is sold to other people, the amendment reasons that the public hearings don’t serve anyone’s needs. New road names already must be approved by the county, and in this scenario, the only landowner affected by the naming of the road is the applicant themselves.

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