Troutman officials continue review of UDO revisions
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Stantec consultant Craig Lewis led members of the Troutman Town Council and Planning and Zoning Board through a review of the proposed Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) updates on Tuesday night. The UDO revisions are available for public review on the town’s website (https://www.troutmannc.gov).
Officials hope the Planning and Zoning Board can recommend the revised UDO to council at its November meeting and send it for final approval to the council by its December meeting, ending a process that has spanned several years.
Town Planner Erika Martin noted that even after approval, if problems arise, council can amend the UDO with text amendments since a UDO is a “living document.”
One decision by the group will streamline approval of future projects. The officials agreed that if a proposed development or building project fits the current UDO, the request can be handled administratively by town staff without Town Council or Planning and Zoning Board involvement.
The Planning and Zoning Board and Town Council will be kept informed of these projects through Martin’s monthly report or at meetings on an informational basis only, with no comment by the officials.
If officials believe a project deviates from UDO conformity, they would address this concern with Martin individually, not in a public meeting.
Any zoning or rezoning request that requires a conditional zoning would still go before the board and council for consideration as it does currently.
Lewis advised officials to regulate the things most important to the town and to figure out what is less important. He reminded them that they can carefully examine plans related to requests for conditional zoning and work with developers to get what they want.
One UDO change was the addition of language addressing short-term rentals, which have recently been a hot zoning topic. Limelights owners John and Tracy Garland requested rezoning to allow two Airbnb units in its main building, which also houses a hair salon, as well as five accessory dwellings behind the business to also serve as short-term rentals.
Officials decided to add two regulations to the revised UDO. They defined short-term rentals as “any online advertisement posted by the owner or Permanent Resident” as being sufficient “to determine that a unit is being offered as a short-term rental.”
They also added language that assured “peaceful enjoyment by neighbors.” The UDO will require that “such use shall create no disturbing or offensive noise, vibration, smoke, dust, odor, heat, glare, unhealthy or unsightly condition, traffic or parking problem.”
The short-term rental units will be allowed in any zoning area except industrial. However, multiple accessory dwellings would only be allowed in office institutional, highway business, neighborhood center, and central business zoning districts.
Martin noted that required zoning permits will help town staff keep track of these rentals. She also explained that the town would receive tax revenue from any Airbnb rentals, but she said that the company does not identify the specific property from which the revenue comes.
She also said that the county has advised that if an Airbnb property has five or more units with exterior door accesses, the property would then fall under North Carolina’s motel designation and then be subject to specific UDO, state and county regulations for motels.
Officials rejected suggested short-term rental regulations that the owner must occupy the residential unit, must obtain a business license, must have liability insurance, and must have an initial safety inspection and maintain two years of records.
They expressed that the few number of short-term units at present and the lack of staff to oversee these regulations made enforcement of these suggestions unfeasible.
Another issue arising was the removal of lot size requirements in the updated UDO draft. Lewis noted that removing this requirement increases flexibility for builders and homeowners, though Planning and Zoning Board member Randy Farmer worried about narrow lots becoming a problem without these requirements.
Lewis countered that the standard lot size is now only about 8,000 square feet and still dropping in response to market demands. He noted that Troutman officials have not seen proposals for large lot developments in a long time.
He also indicated that conditional zoning on mixed residential developments will help officials influence sidewalks, walking trails, architecture, and other priorities important to the town.
Council member Judy Jablonski also called attention to UDO regulations about store displays outside the business. Current regulations that limit such displays to the doorway and sidewalk area would address concerns she has about one business that spills out into parking areas. She was assured that current code enforcement can address those violations.
► After adoption of the revised UDO, all lots in major subdivisions will have paved driveways. In minor subdivisions and rural preservation districts, new construction must have at least paved aprons in driveways through the right of way area.
► Add current UDO language that allows and regulates campaign signs “provided that: (1) Each sign shall not exceed thirty-two square feet in area for non-residential properties and residential properties along community gateway roads (limited to Hwy. 21, Wagner Street, Old Mountain Road, Murdock Road, and Talley Street). (2) All other residential properties shall be limited to four square feet. (3) All such signs shall be removed within seven days after the election for which they were made. Property owner shall be held responsible for violations. (4) Height shall not exceed six feet for non-residential properties and residential properties along community gateways. All other residential properties shall be limited to forty-two inches. (5) These regulations shall only apply to campaign signs within the corporate limits of Troutman.”
► Require at least four bike spaces in small parks and on each half mile of greenway in new subdivisions.