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Town officially approves UDO, with one last change.
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — Commissioner Frank Drake is well-known to be a fan of horse racing. But as he proved Tuesday night, he’s also got a bit of a talent for horse-trading.
Commissioners were all set to vote on the second reading of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), when Drake asked if any of the others would consider two of his objections to what was recommended by the UDO committee.
The UDO is essentially a rework of the town’s entire code of ordinances, with modernized and streamlined elements.
Drake didn’t like reductions of the size of tree replacements when developers cut down protected trees — a change recommended for tree health reasons by the town’s urban forester Evan Keto.
And Drake also pooh-poohed giving developers the option to reduce minimum buffers between uses from 20 feet to 10 feet.
After a motion by Commissioner Margaret Stinnett to approve the UDO, Drake interjected and said, “I’m willing to concede the tree ordinance portion, but I advance the buffer change.
“The 10 feet — It’s tough to support a capital tree in that space. It would be reasonable to expect that any developer will use the 10-foot buffer, given the opportunity, every time.”
Though the smaller buffer would have to have more plantings to make it more opaque, he suggested that larger trees’ root base would be impacted by a more limited buffer.
“A capital tree won’t do very well in a 10-foot buffer,” Drake said.
Stinnett declined to amend her motion, but just before the vote, Commissioner Zachary Donahue asked Drake if he would compromise at 15 feet of buffer for a minimum. Drake said he’d take what he could get.
“Every five feet increases the survivability of the buffer,” he said.
As Mayor Vivian Jones cut off discussion and began to call for the vote, Donahue had a quick word with Commissioner Greg Harrington. Then, Donahue, Drake and Harrington voted no to Stinnett’s motion.
Drake then motioned to approve the UDO with the 15-foot buffer change and it passed unanimously.
Several other changes were agreed on by all commissioners. They included:
•eliminating a retrofit district option that would have allowed some developers to skip the public hearing process, and
•preventing 28 parcels of land from being rezoned as part of the UDO approval, rather than requiring landowners to seek separate public hearings.
Those portions met with much resistance during the public hearings on the UDO in the past few months.
But, changes aside, the commissioners praised the work of the UDO committee, which met for more than two years to work out the kinks and streamline development processes in the new set of ordinances.
“I think we came up with a very good document and a very good plan for our community in the future,” said Jones. “I don’t agree with everything that’s in it … But that’s part of what we do, is to agree to work together and do the very best that we can.”
•Save the lake: Two Traditions community plans were approved unanimously by the board with little comment. One was Traditions Southeast, in which 70 homes will be clustered on a smallish piece of a 141-acre property, leaving a large swath of land next to the Wake Forest Reservoir undeveloped. The other plan was for Traditions Townhomes, including 101 townhouses on 20 acres, as well as a pool and recreation center for the entire Traditions community.
•In the drink: Commissioners unanimously approved, without discussion, the second reading of a change to the ordinance formerly banning the sale and consumption of alcohol on town properties.
The amendment will allow alcohol to be sold at the Wake Forest Renaissance Centre, a civic and cultural arts center the town hopes to open in November in the former Tuxedo Junction building on Brooks Street.
•Slow down: During public comment, Fanning Drive resident Lois Nielson thanked Commissioner Margaret Stinnett for her help in getting speed limit signs and an electronic speed detector sign posted on Friendship Chapel Road between Jones Dairy Road and Heritage Lake Road June 4-5.
“Not one (vehicle) was clocked going at or below the speed limit” she said. “Most were moms in SUVs and vans.” Other law-breaking traffic she observed included construction vehicles headed to Traditions, school buses and motorcyclists who she said like to “open up” on the half-mile straightaway. Nielson asked commissioners to ensure that police enforce the speed limit through the town, particularly in residential areas.
•No way street: One block of East Oak Avenue, between Mill and Brewer streets in the Mill Village, was closed permanently following a public hearing.
•Seeing red: During a presentation about the Public Arts Commission (PAC) budget, Wake Forest Finance Director Aileen Staples revealed that cost overruns for the installation of the Leaf Shade Bench and Rain Gate on South White Street have put the PAC budget in the red by $1,562. Leftover funds from the town project that paid for the art, the White Street Streetscape redevelopment of downtown, will cover the cost, she said.
•New board: Five of seven nominees were chosen to serve on the newly-created Design Review Board, which will handle smaller subdivision and site plans for commissioners as part of the new UDO. They are Matt Hale, Paul Eitel, Harry Mitchell, James Esquival and Cynthia Cook. The terms will run through December, after which commissioners will set term limits.
•Litigation: No action was taken following a closed session to meet with the town attorney about litigation with Heaton Construction, the general contractor for the new Wake Forest town hall.