Commissioners approve changes to Planning Board rules

Wil Petty

May 26, 2014

The Ashe County Board of Commissioners has adopted new regulations for the administration of the county planning board to follow guidelines, mandated by the N.C. General Assembly, now required by every county in the state.

A public hearing on the proposed changes was held on Monday, May 19, prior to the vote. There was no comment from the public.

“The ordinance amendment… will address how the Planning Board holds Board of Adjustment hearings,” said Adam Stumb, planning director for Ashe County.”These (hearings) are for variances, appeals and requests. This will lay out a procedure on how to do those.”

Stumb said the changes were mandated by the N.C. General Assembly with legislation that “clarifies and modernizes” the administration of boards of adjustment.

“The reason they want to standardize how these board conduct their hearings and procedures they go through is so we’re consistent between the different and county jurisdictions,” he said.

One change includes requiring the Planning Board to look into four findings of facts when regarding variances.

According to documents, “When unnecceary hardship would result from carrying out the strict letter of an ordinance, the Planning Board, by a vote of four-fifths of its membership, may apply a different standard to any of the provisions of the ordinance,” if the four findings are applicable to the situation.

The four findings are: unnecessary hardship from the strict application of the ordinance, the hardship resulting from conditions that are peculiar to the property, hardship that was not a result of actions taken from the property owner and the variance is consistent with the spirit, purpose and intent of the ordinance, so public safety is secured.

Stumb said there will also be changes in the appeals process, where the state will now require a seven-step procedure. Those procedures include those who are directly affected by allowing them an opportunity to make an appeal to the Planning Board, a notice of 30 days to file an appeal, and rules regarding conflict of interest.

Stumb said there were few things Ashe County did not have in place that were implemented.

“The biggest change to the ordinance, that (Ashe County) did not already have for both processes, is that it will require the planning department to send out a mailed notice to the applicant,” he said. “They should be aware of it anyway, but a mailed notice will also be sent to the adjoining property owners so they are made aware of the situation.”

Before the vote, Stumb emphasized these requests were coming from the state and not from him.

“These changes are coming from Raleigh and they are asking us to incorporate these (changes) into our ordinance in the most appropriate place,” he said.

The changes will be in Chapter 153.04 which deals directly with the Ashe County Planning Board. In an email to the Commissioners, Stumb said “The intent of the bill is to standardize the grounds for issuing a variance to a land use ordinance and for an appeal of a county employee’s decision in a land use matter.”

Board of Commissioners Vice Chair, Judy Porter Poe, then opened the discussion for public comment, to which none was given.

Commissioner Larry Rhodes then made the motion to approve the amended ordinance and William Sands seconded the motion. The final vote was 4-0.

For more information about the changes, contact the Planning Department at (336) 846-5528.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.