Unified development ordinance goes to commissioners, minus a few pieces
by David Leone
WAKE FOREST — They wanted to have a voice in the process. They showed up en masse Tuesday and got the changes they wanted.
About 130 people attended Tuesday night’s Wake Forest Planning Board meeting in a room that has seating for 100. Though they were there for different issues, many were present to protest elements of the draft Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).
The UDO is a modernizing of the town’s entire set of ordinances and zoning laws. Though much of the town’s existing neighborhoods are left alone, some landowners have requested new zoning. And in other places, a UDO review committee has requested changes to re-urbanize portions of Wake Forest.
The public hearing on the UDO was continued from last month so that more people — including residents of Heritage North and Pineview Estates — could speak their piece.
In particular, homeowners objected to a designation referred to as conditional district retrofit. The overlay district would streamline redevelopment in the town’s center, but at the expense of much of the public hearing process that now governs rezoning issues and site plans.
Another objection was raised to the UDO’s accompanying zoning map. There are 28 property owners who have requested a new zoning as part of the UDO approval process. Those rezonings, too, are occurring without separate public hearings.
Those 28 properties upset resident Ron Rosenberg, who noted there are no public hearings, no notification of property owners and no indications of intended uses when they’re automatically rezoned that way.
“We should take our time, be deliberate, be diligent in planning for the future,” he said.
Sensing the board’s uneasiness with the auto-zonings, Planning Director Chip Russell said those properties could be assigned the closest zoning to what they’re zoned in the current ordinance.
In a series of motions by planning board members Bill Fisher, Steve Stoller and Ed Gary, the board agreed to eliminate both the retrofit district and the auto-zoning of the 28 properties, while agreeing to make a list of other changes recommended by town staff.
Though none of the board members actually said they were voting in favor of the entire UDO, town officials said after the meeting that the intent to do so was there, so planning board member Ed Gary is credited with that motion, which was approved unanimously.
A dozen residents living in the Crossings at Heritage senior living neighborhood were also present to object to a single family subdivision plan called Homestead at Heritage that would add traffic to Heritage Branch Road.
Requested by Standard Pacific Homes, Homstead would put 224 houses on 73 acres at the south end of the road. An already approved apartment complex would also exit onto the road (as well as directly onto Rogers).
At first, planning board members appeared to be leaning toward turning the project down, but Planning Director Chip Russell said that planning staff wants to mandate that Standard Pacific put in a traffic light at Rogers Road.
There’s one caveat — Russell also revealed that the N.C. Department of Transportation mandates when traffic lights are needed for the road, it has to sign off on any such improvements. There is concern the DOT would delay approving the signal until after the neighborhoods are built.
“I talked with the DOT district engineer (Reid Elmore),” Russell said. “There’s not a problem with the signal, it’s when.”
The recommendation to approve the community was 5-3, with board members Weston Norris, Stoller and Gary dissenting.
And a request by Green Olive Investments to put a 133-lot single-family neighborhood called Stonewater on 74 acres off Rogers Road adjacent to the Majestic Oaks neighborhood was unanimously agreed upon.
All votes are recommendations only and go to town commissioners for final approval.