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Spring Hope commissioners formally abolished the current and separate Board of Adjustment and assumed its zoning responsibilities themselves on Monday.
After a public hearing where no one spoke, the town board with little comment passed the necessary motions to amend the town’s zoning ordinance to designate the board to serve as the Board of Adjustment in a “dual role,” with an additional two members from Spring Hope’s one-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction to be nominated by the town and appointed by county commissioners.
The proposal was drafted by Town Manager Jae Kim and approved last month by the newly reorganized planning board. The former Board of Adjustment consisted of five regular members and three alternates who acted independently from the town board.
Kim last year expressed frustration with the Board of Adjustment for its repeated failure to reach a quorum and to accurately apply the zoning ordinance as well as state laws requiring quasi-judicial hearings.
Monday’s motion setting forth the rationale for the change stated, “The Planning Board concluded that it was reasonable and in the public interest to have the governing board serve in dual roles as they are knowledgeable with rules and procedures related to town business/functions, open to attending meetings on a regular basis and abiding by state law and local ordinances.”
The amended ordinance states “the appointment, term and officers of the Board of Adjustment shall be identical to that of the Spring Hope Board of Commissioners” plus the two additional members from the ETJ.
But Kim said he expected the commissioners to hold separate meetings as a board of adjustment, which are open to the public. The board only meets when necessary to respond to a request.
In the zoning ordinance, the Board of Adjustment reviews and approves conditional-use permits, reviews and acts on requests for variances and hears appeals of decisions and actions of the town’s zoning administrator, which is now Kim. Decisions by the Board of Adjustment are subject only to review by Nash County Superior Court.
Kim said the town had three options: retain a separate Board of Adjustment; give the planning board the dual role, which it declined; or assign the role to commissioners.
“There were three different ways we could do it. I am comfortable with the planning board’s recommendation. I believe it will best serve the community and be more efficient, and I look forward to working with commissioners in their role as a Board of Adjustment,” Kim said after the meeting.
NEW FENCE RULES
In another major zoning action, commissioners approved text amendments to the zoning ordinance regulating fences that were drafted and approved by the planning board after more than a year of study.
The ordinance has always regulated the placement, composition and height of fences, and requires property owners to obtain a permit before constructing a new fence. The changes were prompted by the planning board after a property owner appeared before the Board of Commissioners in late 2016 without following approval protocols and was granted an exception to the allowed height of a front fence to contain a dog.
“The update will make changes so that the Board of Commissioners will no longer have to review future requests and increase the height limits for different zoning districts,” Kim told commissioners.
The original ordinance limited residential fences in the front yard to no more than 3 feet in height or a retaining wall more than 5 feet in height that is more than 75 percent solid. Rear and side fences greater than 7 feet in height were to be an open type, and fences may not exceed 10 feet in height except in commercial and industrial districts.
The amended ordinance, approved without public opposition or discussion, now allows solid front yard fences of up to 4 feet and open fences up to 5 feet above grade. Residential fences in a side or rear yard may be no more than 6 feet high except that fences up to 8 feet in height will be allowed between any residential and non-residential use.
In commercial, industrial, or non-residential zoning districts, fences or walls may not exceed 12 feet in height. In “exceptional cases,” the zoning administrator may allow commercial or industrial fences higher than 12 feet but no higher than 20 feet.
Fences or walls may not be built on easements or public rights-of-way, which could block stormwater runoff, and no fence, post or wall shall be installed “so as to obstruct visibility at a street intersection or driveway entrance.” Setbacks and other requirements are designated in the new ordinance for non-retaining walls or fences.
Residential fences or walls may be constructed of “wood, stone, brick, decorative concrete block, wrought iron, products created to resemble these materials or a combination of any of these materials.”
Materials such as plywood, particleboard, sheet metal, concrete slabs or concrete barriers may not be used for fencing or for walls, the revised ordinance specifies. No barbed or razor wire fencing is allowed in residential districts. Within commercial and industrial districts, no barbed or razor wire fencing is permitted below a height of 8 feet.
A certificate of zoning compliance is required for new construction prior to erecting a fence or wall, the ordinance states, and must be completed within 365 days of the issuance of the permit. Minor repair and maintenance do not require the certificate but “will require prior written approval from the zoning administrator that the work qualifies as minor repair and maintenance before the start of work.”
license plate agencY
In other business Monday, the board appointed commissioner Ricky Tucker to the Fire Board for a one-year term, adopted a schedule of meetings to prepare the upcoming budget, okayed applying for a brownwater assessment grant and heard department reports.
Allen Barbee, president of the Chamber of Commerce, reported that the new N.C. License Plate Agency planned for the former Southside Pharmacy building on Ash Street will not be able to open until the second week of April because the state will not begin four weeks of training, including three in Raleigh, until March 18.
He said the chamber had received 15 applications for agency manager and would be interviewing qualified applicants soon.