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County to review height limits

By Staff
Ordinance looks at waterways, highways
By PETER WILLIAMS
Managing Editor
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and the county’s Planning Board are set to review a draft ordinance tonight that would limit how tall buildings can be near navigable waterways or major highways in the county.
The joint meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. in the county administration building on West Third Street in Washington.
The county has no limit on how tall buildings can be. That fueled debate when developers proposed two 13-story condominium buildings on property that useda to be home to the former Whichard’s Beach complex. If adopted, the new county rules would be more restrictive than those imposed by the City of Washington in its jurisdiction.
The proposed ordinance would not apply county-wide, but only to developments in unincorporated areas of the county that are within 1,500 feet of a navigable waterway or a highway corridor. The highways listed are U.S. Highways 17 and 264 and N.C. Highways 32, 33, 92, 99 and 306. The limits would not apply to properties inside a city, like Washington, unless the municipality formally requested the county impose the regulations.
The new Beaufort County ordinance would limit single-family homes and multi-family structures with six or fewer units to 35 feet in height. Residential developments with more than seven units will have a base limit of 35 feet, but they could be as tall as 60 feet if they met certain conditions. A developer would have to provide a 1-foot setback from the side yard for every foot in height above 35 feet.
The same 60-foot cap would also apply to commercial and manufacturing buildings. Any other zoning use, like a hospital, would be viewed on a case-by-case basis and the 60-foot limit would not apply.
For residential structures, chimneys don’t count. Also, in the event that the natural ground represents the starting point for the measurement of a structure’s height, a single-family home would be allowed a crawl space exclusion, provided the crawl space does not exceed the requirements of the North Carolina Building Code.
The City of Washington presently limits residential development to 50 feet. Under previous rules, residential projects within the Historic District were limited by the average height of the existing structures in that block. Under the older provision, Moss Landing, at about 65 feet, and Buoy Tender Station were approved.
The city has no limit on height of buildings along the U.S. Highway 17 corridor near Lowe’s. Roberson said that’s because building heights in that corridor are already limited by the corridor’s proximity to the airport. Even then, the city says for every foot a building exceeds 50 feet in that zone, it has to have a 2-foot setback from the property line.