Planning Commission Votes Against Residential Rezoning Request For 25 Properties On Sumter Avenue

Planning Commission Votes Against Residential Rezoning Request For 25 Properties On Sumter Avenue

Planning Commission Votes Against Residential Rezoning Request For 25 Properties On Sumter Avenue Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 17 July 2019 00:16

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH  - The Carolina Beach Planning and Zoning Commission considered a request at their Thursday July 11th meeting to rezone 25 parcels on Sumter Avenue, South 6th Street and South 4th Street.

According to Town Planning Director Jeremy Hardison, the applicant, Karen Graybush, applied to rezone 25 properties on the south side of Sumter Ave from the 400 block to the Sunny Point buffer area from R-1 to R-3. The rezoning also includes 804 and 803 S. Sixth St. and 804 S. 4th St.

Hardison explained, "The town is divided into different zoning districts to regulate the height and size of buildings and to regulate the intensity of land usage, and the location of land uses. It is to provide for the improved environment; and to promote the health, safety and general welfare of its citizens. The reasoning for the applicants proposed rezoning is to prohibit duplexes from being built in this area. If changed the area would only allow single-family dwellings."

He explained, "The primary differences between the zoning districts is that R-1 has smaller minimum lot size (5,000 sq. ft.) and allows two-family dwellings (duplexes). The R-3 district minimum lot size is 12,000 sq. ft. and only allows single-family dwellings. The other differences besides density and lot size is that R-1 has a 20’ front setback verses R-3 with a 25’ front setback requirement, and this section of R-1 is in a 45’ height overlay district vs 40’ height limit for R-3."

Hardison explained, "The area that is proposed to be rezoned currently has 16 single-family dwellings, 7 vacant lots, and one two-family dwelling. A building permit has recently been applied for to build duplexes on three of the vacant lots. The 25 lots in this area are owned by 22 different property owners. Ten properties meet the R-3 minimum lot size of 12,000 sq. ft. These properties have the potential to be subdivided to meet the R-1 5,000 sq. ft. minimum lot size. Fifteen of the properties meet the R-1 minimum lots size and would be nonconforming if they were rezoned to R-3. Nonconforming lots can still be developed, but must meet the setbacks for the zoning district."

He explained the Town's Land Use Plan states the area should predominately include single family and duplex units and density in that area will be moderate with a minimum of 5,000 square foot lots with around 8.7 units per acre with up to 15 units per acre allowed.

Hardison explained, "Lot coverage will not be allowed to exceed 40%. New multi-family (3 units or more) residential development shall be prohibited."

Graybush explained in a letter to neighbors that was included in the rezoning application, "I am your neighbor and live at 518 Sumter Ave, Carolina Beach. I am also a Real Estate Broker with Intracoastal Realty, but I am not working in this capacity at this time. I am contacting you as a citizen of Carolina Beach and your neighbor only."

Graybush urged residents to attend meetings of the Town's Planning and Zoning Commission as well as Town Council, "To be heard on this topic or to show support."

She explained in the letter, "There are three lots for sale at 517 Sumter, 519 Sumter and 803 S. 6th Street. These lots are under contract to a developer who plans to build duplexes. There are not any duplexes on our street. Our street is a neighborhood of single family homes. Our street dead ends to Lark Park Boulevard at Third Street, and is quiet and private and full of mostly full time residents."

She explained, "Current zoning divides our street down the middle, Sumter Ave, down the middle, allowed duplexes from Fourth Street to Eight Street, on the South side of the street. I ran into the developer and builder this afternoon and had a chat with them. I request you all think upon the following as to possibly allowing the zoning to stay by changing "rules (covenants) that run with the land (meaning all who build must meet these rules as they are "attached to and run with" the land, regardless of who owns the land."

She explained, "The builder is local and thinking of building duplexes that look like those on Fourth Street between Sumter and Spartanburg on the west side of the street. (one has the garage in front of the home)."

Graybush explained, "Perhaps there can be some discourse during this process into not necessarily re-zoning, but in allowing duplexes that have covenants and/or HOA requirements that go with the development. Duplexes that look like homes, and have storage and/or garages, that allow for yards might be considered. Also, allowing owner occupied residents. There are builders that like to build with the interest of the Town and neighborhoods at the forefront of designs and plans, and then there are builders that do not."

She explained in the letter, "I am putting a zoning change request for all of the lots from Fourth to Eight on the south side (all of the odd numbered properties) I am proposing they move the zone line from the middle of Sumter Ave to the middle of the blocks between Sumter and Spartanburg, Spartanburg being a "drive through" street with heavier traffic. Or we can discuss the "covenants" idea. As we all know affordable housing on the island is at crisis."

In the letter, Graybush requested 38 property owners consider donating funds to help pay the $625 application to the Planning Department.

Miles Murphy - Town Planner - explained during the Planning Commission meeting, "In Carolina Beach Zoning, for right or for wrong, there are dozens of streets that are divided. It's rampant. A lot of these zoning districts have been in place for over two decades. So it's not uncommon. In fact 4th Street itself is another division of R1 and R3 along the entire length of it right down the middle. It might not be the way it should have been done and it's something we can always look forward to changing in the future."

Murphy explained, "For the same reason that we like to follow parcel lines for zoning districts, we also use streets because they are consistent and it makes it a lot easier to divide."

Commissioner Debra Lecompte explained, "We are talking about making 15 lots non-conforming... and then also the setbacks. So if you are built in R1 and you have a 20 foot setback, but R3 goes to a 25 foot setback, how many homes are already going to be non-conforming because of that. They will be out of the setbacks, correct... that's something to consider."

Lecompte spoke about a property owner that has owned lots in that area for decades and said, "Also I think we need to consider the lady back here who has been here forever, whose family has owned that property knowing that it's in R1 and that one day they might be able to build a multi-unit property, to me it needs to stay the way it is. There are families that have already invested in these properties and invested because they were R1 and to me it makes sense to leave it the way it is."

One homeowner said she has owned property on Sumter for several decades and wanted to eventually build multi-family units for her family. If the rezoning request was approved, she would no longer have that right which she depended upon for many years.

Commissioner Wayne Rouse explained, "The lady in the back, the one that's been a homeowner since 1964 I think she said, unless she's ready to pull the trigger and build, she's out of luck."

Several real estate agents expressed concerns to the Commission over Graybush speaking with the buyers of properties and stating she was on the Town's Land Use Plan Steering Committee and would request a rezoning of the area.

Graybush said those statements were an attempt to question her character and explained she was not acting in bad faith but is concerned about increased density in her neighborhood.

Other residents spoke in favor of her rezoning request while others spoke in opposition stating they purchased their properties with the expectation of the right to develop their land as allowed under the current zoning that has existed for many years.

Commission Chairman Keith Bloemendaal explained, "Going from the R3 to the R1,  your setback goes from 20 to 25 feet. I think this has been brought up but I just want to talk on a couple of things. It also goes from a height limit of 50 feet to 40 feet and the density changes fro 15 to 3.6. That's how you devalue a property in my opinion. You've just devalued all of these properties. Building a duplex across the street from a single family house, I do it everyday in Wilmington Beach, next to duplexes, it does not devalue the single family house one bit in my experience. So the devaluing here would be if this was approved in my opinion."

Commissioner Mike Hoffer explained, "Zoning 101, and I think I read a book with that exact title. Why zone? That was the first chapter. Why do you do it. It's for consistency and for comfort. If you buy a house, you know what you're getting. You know what you can do with your property, you know what's going to happen to the property next to you. So you are not up to the whims of Town Council's and such of what's going to be built. You buy a house in a residential neighborhood, you know there's not going to be a gas station built next to you. You invest in a property and you know what you can do with it. That's also zoning. This hasn't changed since 1980. I won't support this change. Furthermore, I make the point, that you didn't buy a house across the street from two empty lots, you bought the house across the street from two lots that don't have duplexes yet, and that's just the way it is."

Chairman Bloemendaal said, "When you buy a lot or a house, you should probably know what's able to be done around you."

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend Town Council deny the rezoning request. The Council will consider the request at their August 13th meeting.


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