Comp Plan Amendment Causes Confusion

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Judging by the number of people who showed up at a City Council public hearing in January, a letter from the city that went to about 2,000 residents caused quite a bit of confusion. We wanted to find out what caused all the confusion and get you some answers.

The letter was about a Comprehensive Plan Amendment that will change some of the land designations on the Future Land Use Map.

Of the 2,000 letters, Senior City Planner Travis Crane said as of early last week, planning staff has received between 120 and 150 calls. The calls were in addition to the packed house at the Jan. 15 public hearing.

The amendment in question, CP-1-2013, would align the 2030 Comprehensive Plan with the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which is expected to be approved by March 1. The UDO is a complete rewrite of the city’s zoning code and will work in conjunction with the comprehensive plan.

The UDO is the law that would put into place the policies in the comprehensive plan.

Part of this amendment would alter some of the land-use designations on the Future Land Use Map.

Crane said city planning staff has been reviewing the Future Land Use Map yearly since it was adopted in 2009. During this review, staff found there were a few categories staff felt were not applied correctly.

Most of these districts are categorized as Neighborhood Mixed-Use and Office, Research and Development.

Neighborhood Mixed-Use is intended to be used for smaller pockets of retail or mixed-use space in residential neighborhoods. An example of this is your average neighborhood corner store or retail spaces such as the one located at Dixie Trail and Medlin Drive.

The problem is, some of the areas that were mapped as Neighborhood Mixed-Use were along major thoroughfares, like New Bern Avenue. These areas should have been mapped Community Mixed-Use, which is similar, but more intense. Examples of Community Mixed-Use are the Cameron Village and Mission Valley shopping centers.

In the case of Office, Research and Development, the designation is intended to be used for large office parks that take up large swaths of land. In some cases, areas were mapped as Office, Research and Development that only included small, single tracts. These properties don’t meet the intended purpose.

So, back to those letters.

When the city mails out 2,000 letters, they aren’t very detailed. Residents got a notification that the Future Land Use Map was changing and that their property might be part of that change.

Confusion ensued.

Crane said most people thought the city was rezoning their property, but that wasn’t the case.

The Future Land Use Map is a policy map, but it isn’t the law. If a property owner were to rezone his or her property to something fitting of a particular project, staff would consult the Future Land Use Map to check for consistency.

The same is done today.

The new designation would only come into play if someone were to rezone his or her property.

Like today, if someone was opposed to a rezoning application, he or she can address the Planning Commission or the City Council at a public hearing.

For questions about a specific piece of property, residents can call the city’s planning department at (919) 996-2626.

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