Council OKs moratorium
Temporarily halts development around bypass interchanges
By MIKE VOSS
Washington’s City Council imposed a 121-day moratorium on development located in two highway interchange overlay districts that will be part of the U.S. Highway 17 bypass.
The unanimous decision came during the council’s meeting Monday.
The Planning Board plans to conduct two public hearings in February to allow property owners in the two districts and others to comment on what types of development should or should not be allowed in those areas. There are 271 parcels in the two districts, which overlap.
In early 2006, the council began discussing the need to protect the bypass area from unwanted development. Existing land-use control ordinances are not adequate to respond to expected increased development adjacent to the bypass, according to the city. Land uses along the bypass area are expected to include, but not be limited to, residential, commercial, industrial and institutional.
Jane Alligood, a member of the Planning Board but who said she was speaking as a city resident, said she wants to prevent the bypass area from becoming a “concrete jungle,” which is what she considers the existing U.S. 17 in Washington.
Austin Smithwick, with Park Boat Co., expressed some concern the moratorium could hamper commercial development in the districts. The moratorium halts new construction and additions to existing structures in the districts.
Smithwick said property owners and others with interests in the districts should have opportunities to say how they want the districts to develop.
Councilman Doug Mercer wondered if the 121-day moratorium would provide the Planning Board enough time to develop proposed zoning changes and development standards for the districts. Steve Moler, a member of the Planning Board, told the council he believes the board will be able to develop those proposed zoning changes and development standards during the moratorium, which expires at 11:59 p.m. May 14.
One of the two interchange overlay districts for the bypass corridor will be located where the bypass intersects U.S. Highway 264 near the southern end of Whispering Pines Road. The other overlay district will be located where the bypass intersects U.S. Highway 17 adjacent to the northern end of Whispering Pines Road.
In other business, the council imposed a 90-day moratorium on the use of composite-synthetic siding as a replacement for wood siding on homes located in the Washington Historic District.
In October, the Historic Preservation Commission granted a property owner in the Historic District permission to replace wood siding on a historic structure with composite-synthetic siding. The commission, concerned about setting a precedent that would result in other property owners seeking to replace wood siding with composite-synthetic siding asked the council to impose the moratorium.
Overman said he fears the commission’s decision to allow the one property owner to replace wood siding on a historic structure with composite-synthetic siding will spur other property owners in the Historic District to attempt to do the same thing.
Don Stroud, president of the Washington Area Historic Foundation and a former chairman of the commission, told the council the Washington Area Historic Foundation supports the moratorium. Stroud and Dee Congleton, both of whom live in the Historic District, believe allowing the replacement of wood siding with composite-synthetic siding damages the value of the city’s historic district.
Some City Council members said they understood that replacing wood siding on structures in the Historic District with composite-synthetic siding was discouraged, if not outright prohibited. Bobby Roberson, the city’s director of planning and development, said historic district’s guidelines allow the commission to consider requests to replace wood siding with composite-synthetic siding on a case-by-case basis.
Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and Councilman Archie Jennings, supported by the remainder of the council, said the city should move quickly to do what’s necessary to prohibit the use of composite-synthetic siding as a replacement for wood siding on homes in the district.
For more coverage of the council’s meeting, see future editions of the Washington Daily News.