Wake Forest town budget, UDO approved, with edits
by David Leone
WAKE FOREST — The town board approved both its budget and Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Tuesday night, which will please some people while upsetting others.
The most contentious parts of the UDO were left out when the board voted to approve. The UDO modernizes the town’s ordinances and zoning laws, while re-urbanizing portions of Wake Forest and streamlining the development process.
One rejected component is a conventional district retrofit option that would have allowed some developers to skip the public hearing process for properties in the town’s central core.
The other would have allowed 28 parcels of land to be rezoned en mass as part of the UDO approval, rather than requiring landowners to go through the normal public hearing process.
That seemed to bother Commissioner Anne Hines, who facetiously asked if property owners have previously been allowed to skip the rezoning process.
“This is the rezoning process. Only one of these properties has been contentious,” Mayor Vivian Jones stressed, pointing out there have been three years of discussions about the UDO. “We’re not trying to sneak something through. People have asked for this. It’s a legitimate process.”
But the revelation that properties would be rezoned without the usual notification of neighboring property owners seemed to discomfit both planning board and town board members when it was raised at a recent public hearing.
“I disagree. This is probably the largest single piece of legislation or rule making. This will change the face of the town,” Commissioner Frank Drake responded.
Commissioner Zachary Donahue said getting more input from residents during rezonings is a better way.
“I believe in erring on the side of caution,” he said.
Nobody argued over removing the retrofit overlay, but there were other points of contention. Drake disagreed with a change adopted as part of the UDO that he felt would trim back on tree replacements in cases where developers cut down protected trees.
The UDO doesn’t require replacement trees as large as the current ordinance, he said.
Drake also protested a change that would allow developers to reduce the size of buffers between properties, while increasing the thickness requirement of those buffers.
Calling it “naive” to believe a 10-foot buffer could offer more protection than a 20-foot buffer, he said that, “The chances of a capital tree surviving in a 10-foot strip, in my opinion, isremarkably less.”
Commissioner Margaret Stinnett made a motion to approve the UDO with staff recommendations, minus the CDR and automatic rezonings and without Drake’s suggested changes. The motion was approved 3-2, with Commissioners Greg Harrington and Drake dissenting.
Most elements of the town’s $52.7 million budget were not controversial. It adds police officers and other positions, while holding the line on taxes at 51 cents per $100 in assessed property.
There is no cost of living employee raise this year, in part, due to the rise of insurance premiums.
Town water customers will see a 7-percent rate hike in their water bills, on top of last year’s 15-percent raise. The increase is required by the city of Raleigh to pay off the 2005 merger of the town and city systems.
As with last week’s work session, the mayor’s plan to spend $50,000 on a Roots to Renaissance initiative was debated. The initative would create a nonprofit group to improve the community through education, healthy living, heritage and the arts.
Donahue objected to funding an entity which has not yet established its nonprofit status, but said he’d be open to looking at it again in the future.
As the majority of the start-up funding would have to be renewed, some commissioners balked, refusing even to fund portions of the request.
“$50,000 is not going to be a onetime thing,” Stinnett said. “Someone’s going to have to pay a salary.”
Debated items that were funded in the budget include a stoplight for Rogers Road and Marshall Farm Street, and extra monies for both the 40th annual July 4 celebration and the Wake Forest Historical Museum’s exterior lighting.