Monday, November 17, 2008

Commercial Historic Overlay District Denied.

Here's the follow-up in the local Daily Advance by Brenda Kleman from the BOC meeting as reported previously:

By Brenda Kleman

CURRITUCK — Carova residents came out in full force Monday and once again managed to thwart attempts to open up the off-road Swan Beach district to more intense development.

About 70 residents and several environmental advocates filled the Board of Commissioner’s meeting room to oppose developer Gerald Friedman’s request to amend the county’s Unified Development Ordinance to create an off-road historic village overlay district in Swan Beach.

Following a long session of public comment, the board voted unanimously to kill the proposed amendment.

If approved, the action would have opened the door to allow overlay districts on parcels greater than 20 acres for shops, professional offices, churches, convenience stores and inns.

Twenty-eight people urged the board to deny the amendment claiming that it would entice more tourists to converge on the quiet residential village and exasperate public safety and environmental concerns.

Carova resident Elizabeth White said, “Over the last few weeks there has been overwhelming, consistent, strong opposition by the general public to any type of commercial development in the off-road area.”

She added that 1,000 tourists and property owners signed a petition opposing the overlay district.

But Friedman argued that opening up the area to commercial use would help stimulate the economy and increase the county’s tax base. He added that when his Swan Beach property was platted and approved by the Board of Commissioners in 1969, it included both residential and commercial uses.

“My rights to my property are just as important as your rights to your property,” Friedman said.

Several residents told the commissioners that the overlay district and commercial development were inconsistent with the policies of the 2006 Land Use Plan. One of them, Lynn Wilson added that the LUP and state statutes prohibit local leaders from approving development in areas of environmental concern.

Karen McCalpin, director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, said that she adamantly opposes Carova commercial development as it would jeopardize the public safety and welfare of the horses that are a big part of Currituck’s history. But, Friedman told the commissioners that the horses have 17,000 acres and he only has 25.

Edna Baden, with the Whalehead Trust, said that opening the area to commercial development would hurt the county’s nature tourism since Carova is a relatively undisturbed area that has a wildlife refuge and the horses. She added that it would affect the county’s eco-tourism, which is becoming the nation’s fastest growing segment of tourism.

Former Fire Chief Marshall Cherry said that hotels and commercial businesses would greatly increase tourism and create huge demands for fire and rescue services.

Friedman’s representatives asked the commissioners to put aside emotions associated with the overlay district and consider the legalities. His attorney, Bryan Plumlee, said that his client has a vested right to develop the property since the Board of Commissioners, in 1969, approved his plat which allows for both residential and commercial development.

Plumlee added that Friedman entered into a contractual agreement with the 1969 board and that it should be honored.

However, county attorney Ike McRee disagreed saying that at the time H.D. Newbern, as commissioner chairman, signed off on the plat, there was no zoning ordinance in effect. He added that after zoning was adopted, Freidman never developed the property for commercial uses and therefore has no vested rights.

McRee also said that no site plan for the property was ever submitted and approved, and that North Carolina does not have laws pertaining to contract zoning. He advised the commissioners to use their discretion based on laws and the Land Use plan.

Chairman Barry Nelms motioned to oppose the text amendment and the rest of the board agreed.

Afterwards, when asked if he would pursue legal action, Plumlee said, “The county seems to leave me no other option.”

As of 1 min ago, all 5 Commissioners denied the request for Commercial development in Swan Beach. More information to follow in the next days. To watch the Commissioners' meeting video, click here