HERTFORD — Perquimans County officials heard details last week about how the county plans to amend its zoning ordinances to comply with the state’s new Chapter 160D land use law.
The county Planning Board met with the Board of Commissioners at the county library, Tuesday, July 13. In attendance to discuss the changes and to address questions was Dale Holland, a senior partner with the Charlotte-based Holland Consulting Planners Inc.
Chapter 160D of the state’s General Statutes is a single-source consolidation of city and county statutes that govern land development regulations, according to the University of North Carolina School of Government.
Local governments had until July 1 to draft required amendments to bring their local ordinances into compliance with the new law. Local governments have until July 1, 2022, to approve a land use plan that complies with Chapter 160D.
Chapter 160D does not override local authority, but its does change how counties enforce their development regulations, Holland told the group.
One significant change is how the county considers variances for subdivisions. In the past, requests for variances were heard by the planning board under the county’s regulations for subdivisions. Moving forward, those requests must be heard by the county’s Board of Adjustment, similar to the way that board now hears zoning variances, according to County Planner Rhonda Repanshek.
Holland, however, recommended that the county dissolve the Board of Adjustment and have the county commissioners assume the role of hearing variances. He made that recommendation because under state law subdivision variances must be heard by a quasi-judicial panel.
A public hearing must be held before a subdivision variance is heard by the acting board. In the quasi-judicial setting, members of the board are not allowed to consider any information outside of the public hearing in determining their approval or denial of the variance, or permit.
The quasi-judicial process puts the county at greater risk of liability. That’s why it’s better if the commissioners, who are elected officials, are the ones deciding on variances, Holland said.
“The best thing to do is make the elected officials, who have access to the county manager, the Board of Adjustment” the deciding authority, Holland said.
Repanshek provided a summary of other amendments to county ordinances. For example, tiny houses have been added to the county’s list of land uses and are defined as a “single-family detached home that is 400 square feet or less in size.”
Another proposed change is the reduction in the minimum square footage of a residential lot from 43,000 square feet to 32,500 square feet.
County Manager Frank Heath said after the meeting that the reduction in square footage was proposed because today’s homeowners are looking for smaller property locations.
The Board of Commissioners will address the proposed recommendations at their next regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 2.
Representing the commissioners at Tuesday’s meeting were Joseph Hoffler, Kyle Jones, Vice Chairwoman Fondella Leigh and Chairman Wallace Nelson. Representing the county planning board were Antoine Moore, Lewis Smith and Teressa Blanchard.