Planning Board to explore possible height regulations

Published 7:20 am Friday, February 9, 2007

By Staff
Recommendations by panel to commissioners
By MIKE VOSS, Contributing Editor
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 on Thursday to let the Beaufort County Planning Board develop possible regulations that would determine heights for new buildings in the county.
Board Chairman Jay McRoy and commissioners Robert Cayton, Jerry Langley, Ed Booth and Al Klemm voted for the measure. Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson voted against it.
At least two commissioners have made up their minds about height controls and other land-use regulations that would apply throughout the county. Langley said he’s already made up his mind but would listen to what the Planning Board has to say about the issue. Richardson also made it clear where he stands on the matter.
Implementing height restrictions would interfere with economic development and people’s property rights, he said. The commissioner has said repeatedly that imposing height restrictions or similar land-use controls would lead to zoning throughout the county, something he opposes.
Some commissioners indicated they didn’t see the need for the Planning Board to weigh in on the issue. Deatherage expressed concerns that the Planning Board would be unduly influenced by “activists” looking out for their interests alone.
Before commissioners began talking about land-use controls, two county residents used the public-comment segment of the meeting to ask commissioners to at least consider actions related to implementing land-use rules in the county. Several county residents and organizations have asked the county to consider implementing such rules since last summer, when the county approved plans to build two 15-story buildings that would house 300 condominiums on the former Whichard’s Beach property. Since that project was approved, those residents and groups have asked the county to impose land-use measures to prevent inappropriate development in the county, especially along the county’s waterways.
Bruce Billings, a Chocowinity resident and member of Citizens for Responsible Growth, asked the county to impose a moratorium on new construction that would exceed 65 feet in height, with structures such as church steeples, silos and communications towers being exempt. The commissioners did not act on his request. Sue Nicholson, a Bath resident and member of Citizens for Responsible Growth, asked the county to implement height restrictions on new construction in the county.
Billings and Nicholson also asked that the Planning Board study the issue and make recommendations to the commissioners.
Despite the speakers’ concerns, some commissioners indicated they don’t see the urgency in implementing land-use rules.
McRoy said it’s unlikely the county will see a significant number of high-rise development projects because such high-density populations projects would require adequate water and sewer services. Those services likely would only be available inside a municipality or its extra-territorial jurisdiction.
Klemm said perhaps the county should consider some land-use restrictions along waterways and more-urban areas of the county instead of throughout the county. Other options include doing nothing in regard to land-use rules and countywide zoning, he said. Klemm said letting the Planning Board explore the matter and provide commissioners with recommendations makes sense.
For additional coverage of the commissioners’ meeting, see future editions of the Daily News.