Building-height hearing is set for today

Published 6:44 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

By Staff
Board, commission seek public input on their suggestions
Contributing Editor
Washington residents and property owners have an opportunity today to provide input on recommendations concerning heights for new buildings in the city.
At 5 p.m., the city’s Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission will conduct a public hearing on their proposed method of determining a new building’s height and height restrictions on new buildings in the B1H (business-historic) zoning district. The meeting will be held in the Council Chamber at the Municipal Building.
During the City Council’s meeting Monday, Bobby Roberson, the city’s director of planning and development, informed the council and Mayor Judy Meier Jennette about the proposed method. Jennette said she’s pleased the public will be able to learn about the proposal and offer its suggestions on the building-height matter.
The use of overlay districts, with their additional standards and restrictions, in some zoning districts makes it difficult for people to know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed in those areas, Jennette said.
Roberson spent several minutes reviewing height regulations in some of the zoning districts and how overlay districts in those areas affect development activities in those zoning districts with the council and mayor. A handout — copies of which Roberson distributed to the council, mayor and others — about overlay districts notes the most common use of overlay districts is in dealing with development in environmentally sensitive areas. In Washington, such districts also are used in dealing with development in areas of historic significance, Roberson said.
During a joint meeting last month, the two panels proposed that a new building’s height will be measured from the mean grade level of the ground to the top of the building, plus a 1-foot maximum of fill allowed on the property. They also propose that in the B1H zoning district a new building’s height is not to be more than 15 percent higher than the average height of buildings in the same block, with no building to exceed 65 feet in height. Those rules also would apply in the Historic District overlay for the B1H zoning district.
Height rules in other zoning districts would remain unchanged.
After the hearing, the board and commission could modify their recommendations before forwarding them to the City Council, which has final say on the matter.
Charles S. Major, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, said he wants any changes to be “something simple that everyone understands.”
During the joint meeting last month, information was distributed about how Edenton, which has a significant historic district, governs building heights. Edenton requires residential structures to be no higher than 35 feet and no commercial building to be taller than 50 feet. Those rules apply throughout the city.
Roberson likes that approach.
Members from both panels said they are interested in protecting the city’s skyline and that’s why they believe their proposed changes should be approved by the council.