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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local County Delays Zoning Amendment On Use Of Noncontiguous Lots

County Delays Zoning Amendment On Use Of Noncontiguous Lots

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The New Hanover County Board o Commissioners decided May 21, to delay taking action on a proposed zoning amendment regarding the use of noncontiguous lots under the same ownership and accessory structures.
County Senior Compliance Official Steve Still explained, "Staff is asking to change the ordinance ... an individual that has noncontiguous lots can establish an accessory use on that lot prior to ever establishing a primary use. Which generally contradicts universal land use policy."
Still explained, "This item actually came before the board sometime before 1982. At that time the Planning Board and staff was looking to change the definition of a lot. The Planning Board wanted to wait until that new definition was established before they removed this because they thought the new definition was going to identify and clarify that section of the ordinance which that did not do. The item failed to be brought forward back to the Planning Board and County Commissioners so here we are today asking for that section to be removed."
The section of the ordinance to be amended was Section 62, Accessory Building, Use of the Supplemental District Regulations.
County resident J.B. Piner said he's opposed to the amendment and explained, "I'm a life long resident of New Hanover County. The significance of this only affects a few people. But it you owned a lot that for some reason you couldn't build on at this time, you are allowed to put an accessory structure."
Piner explained, "There are right many over the county. The accessory structure could be a garage. You use it as the same use as the code allows you to under the residential rules. So if you vote for this text amendment you are taking that away for people to use their property. There are a lot of lots out there that don't have sewer and will not perk. So it allows them to use that until the time comes that they could build a house. There are several in my neighborhood. People use them to work on their cars where they might not be able to work on them where they live."
He explained, "Since zoning started, this has been in the code. What you would be doing is taking away a right for property owners. You are collecting taxes on these properties now. If you do away with this, you are not going to collect any taxes from anybody that wants to build a garage."
He explained, "Like I said, there are not that many that want to do it, but what's wrong with keeping it the way it is now?"
Still explained, "Generally, as land use goes, you have to establish a primary use first. Take for consideration, a residential piece of property. You have to have a house, a residential use established on that lot before you can have an accessory use such as a garage."
Still explained, "If you live in a neighborhood and the lot next door builds a garage and they are working on cars or using storage, that's not a residential nature. Even though they are working on their own cars or storing materials, that's now more a business or commercial type use. There is no home associated with it."
Still said, "It leads to temptation to go into further things, working on other people's cars so now that building becomes an automotive garage. And it becomes an enforcement issue as well having to make sure they are only working on their own cars."
He said, "This section of the ordinance, since I've been with the County, has been interpreted and enforced in that you can not have it this way. You can only build on contiguous properties. We are actually just cleaning up this section of the ordinance. We've always historically since I've been here enforced it to not allow it."
Mr. Piner explained, "You ought to have a zoning ordinance that enforces not using it for commercial property. The ones I know that people own, they do not use it for commercial property. They use it for exactly what it's intended for. It's a house at some point and time and they build a garage there now."
Piner said, "As far as enforcing it now, I know of several that's been built in the last three or four years that are on lots that there's no house on. So it's part of the code now, it's been part of the code. I don't see a problem."
Commissioner Brian Burger asked if the amendment would mean a homeowner could not place a large shed, work space or hobby space in their backyard?
Still explained, "That would not apply in this case if their dwelling unit was associated with the property. So they would have to have a dwelling unit associated with the property before they could build a garage. I couldn't live in Castle Hayne and own a lot in Sea Breeze and just go to Sea Breeze and build my garage. It would have to be a contiguous piece of property."
Commissioner Rick Catlin explained, "My question would be to staff, some examples where this has caused a problem?"
Still explained, "We actually within the past month have received applications for basically an accessory building to be located on a residential lot. The accessory building is a three-bay garage which is above and beyond what you would have in a residential setting. The individual has stated it will not be a commercial type garage, however, he does own other commercial type garages. It just sort of leads to the temptation that this is definitely going to be a commercial type garage."
Planning Inspections Director Chris O’Keefe explained, "It needs to be very clear that you may build your house on one lot. We're not talking about that lot where your house is built. Right now you would have the ability to go into another neighborhood on a vacant lot in that residential community and build this three car garage... even though your house is in
a different community." He added, "Noncontiguous is the key. If the lot is contiguous to your lot then we would say this accessory use would be permittable."
O’Keefe said, "We want to protect the existing communities where the residential use has been established from the use that may not have any residential component at all from being inserted into that community."
Local real estate agent and County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield asked, "Have you had any conversation with the real estate community because I can se this having an adverse affect on realtors trying to sell lots and trying to educate their clients on possible uses, or uses that they could use these lots for. How do we get around that?"
O’Keefe explained, "We have not had a lot of interest in this particular change. I think it's been enforced as we are proposing it to be changed to for a while. I'm not sure how that's happened. That's just the way it's been."
Barfield explained, "That gives me concern that you are enforcing something that is not really the rule, so
you are making up your own rules outside of what's been established. I do have a problem with that."
O’Keefe said, "Yes sir, I do as well. I'm not sure how it became interpreted that way. When we found out" research was done and discovered the change that came before the board in the 1980's.
O’Keefe said, "There was confusion over what was being voted on at the time so that's why this amendment was dropped. We tried to figure out why it had been enforced this way and really couldn't come up with much other than the history from the early 80's."
Barfield said, "I don't want to do anything to further limit people's private property rights."
He said, "I think it would be good to get some input from others as well. It sounds like you want us to ratify what you've been doing all along which may have had some adverse affects on others in the past when the rule was one thing but you've been telling folks no you can't do this although the rules said you could."
Barfield explained, "I know, from someone who is selling lots, it would be prudent on our part to make sure we educate those who are actually out there trying to move some of these lots on what can and can't be done with them. Because people have all kinds of plans for stuff. Maybe five or ten years down the road maybe I'll build something here now and when I move to Wilmington I'll build something else to it. I guess my question is how do we address those scenarios as well."
Commissioner Catlin said he agreed explaining, "I think there's more to learn about this."
The Commission voted unanimously to delay any decision until they can get input from the community including organizations such as the local home builder's association and realty companies.
The Commission agreed to delay action for 60 days to permit soliciting more input.