Zebulon has too many zoning districts, consulting firm says

amoody@newsobserver.comJanuary 27, 2014 

— Experts say there is an unnecessary amount of zoning districts and developmental uses in Zebulon, and they say that can create issues.

It increases the likelihood for inconsistencies in the town’s code of ordinances, which can make it difficult for the town to enforce its code, according to representatives of The Lawrence Group – the firm overseeing the creation of Zebulon’s first Unified Development Ordinance.

For that reason, the consultants say they may recommend Zebulon redraw its zoning districts as part of a diagnostic report they plan to complete by April. That could affect how people can use their property.

“That’s something we’ll consider,” said Craig Lewis, a planning director for The Lawrence Group. “(Zebulon) has an unnecessary number of zoning districts and there’s a possibility some districts might be consolidated. But it will be a long time before we know.”

Lewis and coworker Scott Curry, who is serving as project manager of Zebulon’s UDO, held several meetings at town hall last week to hear how the community would like to see the town grow in the future.

The UDO will be a single source manual spelling out all development rules in one document. The town is pursuing the document to simplify and clean up its 29-year-old code of ordinances.

In a meeting with commissioners on Wednesday, Curry noted the town has 49 zoning sectors, including 22 special use districts, 21 base districts and six overlay districts. He made the point that Wake Forest, a town about five times Zebulon’s size, has 15 total zoning districts.

“That’s one of the things that popped out to us is that Zebulon may have some unnecessary complexity built into the code,” Curry said. “The two clearest examples are the number of zoning districts they’ve got and the number of use types that they’ve got.”

Zebulon’s code includes about 260 use types, more than twice the amount in Wake Forest, Curry said.

While he said the town has an excess of rules on land development, Curry told the town board its roughly 200-page code book lacks in another department – aesthetics.

“How many (pages) have to deal with how the town is supposed to look and feel?” he asked. “About four pages, about 2 percent of the code.”

Curry on Friday said his crew plans to look into working more design elements into the ordinances.

There are also discrepancies between the existing town code and the comprehensive plan the town adopted in 2008.

An example the consultants cited is that the comprehensive plan calls for more connected streets and fewer cul-de-sacs, whereas the existing code calls for curved streets and cul-de-sacs.

Lewis said Zebulon’s situation is not uncommon among existing communities with older ordinances.

“But the modern trend is definitely toward fewer districts that are more flexible,” Lewis said.

After presenting their preliminary findings in April, the consultants will begin work on a first draft of the UDO that is scheduled to be completed in August.


Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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