Editorial: Who cares about a UDO?

January 3, 2014 

Some of the vagaries of government can glaze a set of eyeballs faster than the test pattern on a late-night television screen.

We get that. It’s hard, if you don’t spend all your time thinking about public policy, to understand all the implications of this law or that ordinance.

But the town of Zebulon is about to embark on the long process of creating its own Unified Development Ordinance – UDO for short – that should make residents in that town sit up and take notice.

The UDO brings all the town’s land use policies into a single document with the goal of simplifying the town’s rules governing development and other land use issues. So, if you think you might one day want to develop that farmland you own, you should pay attention. Think you might want to one day add a mother-in-law wing? Build a fence? The UDO will govern all those things.

In many cases, the rules likely won’t change. In other cases, the exercise of creating a UDO will highlight ordinances that are at odds with each other. Town leaders will have to decide which version of those rules to keep and which to throw out. And it is also an opportunity to redirect the kind of development that takes place in a town. By making rules that discourage one kind of development, while encouraging others, many property owners could find their property rights greatly expanded or diminished.

Creating their UDO took Wendell nearly two years, then, when a new board of commissioners came into office, the town methodically, chapter by chapter, reworked many of the rules.

Hopefully Zebulon doesn’t go through the process twice like Wendell did, but it will likely take the town 18 months or so to OK a final document. That means residents should get ready to pay attention for a long time. Part of the process will involve getting public input. But residents should think that’s the end of their involvement. It will be an important and far-reaching policy when it’s done. And that kind of process deserves the public’s attention throughout the process.

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