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City’s zoning rules don’t allow jail at industrial park

Published 11:39pm Friday, March 22, 2013

Beaufort County commissioners may have to rethink their decision to locate a new jail in the industrial park owned jointly by the county and city.
The industrial park is in the city limits. City zoning regulations could prevent the new jail from being located there.
“According to the City of Washington’s Table of Permitted Zoning Uses, Correctional Institutions are not allowed in the 1-2 Zoning District as a permitted or a special use. Therefore, the proposed county jail is not allowed as a use in
the Industrial Park,” reads a memorandum from John Rodman, the city’s planning and development director, to the mayor and City Council.
That issue and where to locate the jail are parts of the tentative agenda for the council’s meeting Monday. At a meeting in February, council members said they were somewhat displeased the city was not consulted about where to locate the jail. They also expressed doubts the industrial park is the right location for the jail.
The memorandum notes “sometimes exceptions to strict adherence to zoning regulations or the need for zoning changes are allowed.” The exceptions, according to Rodman’s memorandum, usually fall into three categories: rezonings, variances and text amendments to zoning regulations.
The industrial park is classified as an I-2 (light industrial) zoning classification. This classification has list of permitted uses and special uses allowed within that zoning district. Correctional institutions, including jails, are not allowed in that district.
Commissioner Al Klemm isn’t overly concerned about the zoning rules not allowing a jail at the industrial park. He said commissioners learned of that situation within a few days of them selecting the industrial park as the site for the jail.
“One of the good things about floating something is you will get feedback, good or bad,” Klemm said Friday.
Asked if the county might seek a variance so it can build the jail at the industrial park, Klemm said, “I don’t know. Picking a jail location is just a first step, and that may not even stick. You’ve got to start some place. … Every time you do something, you have barriers. It’s very simple, either over come the barriers, or you do something else.”
The council is expected to adopt a declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions for the former Beaufort County Health Department property at 403 N. Harvey St. The building on that property was demolished earlier this month.
Because money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was used to buy the property and raze the building, FEMA requires restrictions on the use of the property, which is next to Jack’s Creek.
The property is now a FEMA lot, which are found in the city’s 100-year flood plain. Instead of repeatedly paying property owners for damages to their properties after floods, earthquakes and other natural disasters, FEMA has a policy that calls for it to buy such lots and to prohibit construction of residential and commercial buildings and permanent structures on the lots. Other uses (such as recreational, gazebos) of the lots are allowed.
The city plans to incorporate the property as part of the Jack’s Creek greenway.
The council also is scheduled to discuss the upcoming 2013-2014 fiscal year city budget.
The council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers in the Municipal Building, 102 E. Second St. To view the council’s agenda for a specific meeting, visit the city’s website at, click “Government” then “City Council” heading, then click “Meeting Agendas” on the menu to the right. Then click on the date for the appropriate agenda.

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