At last, a UDO for Maggie Valley
After years of effort and several failed attempts by multiple town boards, Maggie Valley has successfully passed its Unified Development Ordinance.
“I’d really like to express my appreciation, and I hope I speak for the entire board, for the hours and hours and hours the planning board put into this effort, certainly to Kaitland’s effort,” said Alderman Jim Owens. “This is long overdue, there’s a ton of work here, I think there was a lot of thought put into it, and I certainly appreciate the effort.”
At Monday’s meeting, in addition to approving the UDO, the board also passed the land use plan and the zoning map. While the land use plan passed unanimously, both the UDO and zoning map passed with split votes, three to two.
“It’s extremely important to note that both the draft UDO and draft zoning map will allow greater development potential throughout the town’s jurisdiction, therefore expanding economic opportunities for both residents and developers,” said Town Planner Kaitland Finkle. “All proposed commercial and mixed-use districts are going to allow for greater development potential as allowable density is proposed to increase throughout.”
Finkle and the planning board have been working through the process of creating the UDO and the zoning map for months now. The board of aldermen first saw a draft of the UDO in March, and following discussions by the board of aldermen, planning board and public hearings with residents of the valley, the document has undergone countless revisions.
“There’s so many changes that have been requested, whether it’s from the community engagement or after board workshops,” said Finkle. “It’s a flexible document. It certainly has seen many iterations, in the last six months, and obviously longer than that in the last seven years.”
The new UDO offers residents and developers in Maggie Valley a much wider range of zoning districts than were previously being used. This may help reduce some of the contention that Maggie Valley has seen over high density zoning requests during the last year.
“These districts are a lot more narrow,” Finkle told the board during the process. “It gives people the option to come in and say, ‘board, this is the property that I have, this is what I’d like to do on this property.’”
“By increasing the districts and then modifying the uses, you take a lot of the ambiguity away of the worst-case scenario,” Town Manager Nathan Clark said to the board when it first received a draft document. “Here you’re going to see a reduction in uses per zone, but you’re going have much more targeted zones to really fit what the actual requests are.”
Previously, properties in the town of Maggie Valley can be zoned low density residential (R1), medium density residential (R2), or high density residential (R3). Commercial properties in town limits can either be zoned for general business (C1) or neighborhood business (C2).
Now the town will have 12 zoning districts — rural residential (R0), low density residential (R1), medium density residential (R2), high density residential (R3), season and short-term residential (R4), Soco mixed use (MU1), Moody Farm mixed use (MU2), general mixed use (MU3), community attraction mixed use (MU4), central business commercial (C1), gateway commercial (C2) and Dellwood commercial (C3).
The UDO passed as it was presented to the board, even though a couple changes were suggested.
The board of aldermen has had particular trouble with RV parks and campgrounds, placing a moratorium on their development for six months in order to complete this UDO and determine where they should be allowed. Now, Rep. Mark Pless (R-Haywood) has introduced a bill to the state legislature that, in addition to other implications, would strip the powers of Maggie Valley government to adopt or enforce any temporary moratoria on development approval through Jan. 1, 2025. In the new UDO campgrounds and RV parks are only allowed in the seasonal and short-term residential (R4) and the community attraction mixed use (MU4) district by special use permit.
Phillip Wight made the motion to accept the UDO, with two changes. First, RV parks be permitted in the community attraction mixed use (MU4) district, by right instead of by special use permit. Second, to grant a request from Linda Taylor that Moody Farm mixed use (MU2) have campgrounds and RV parks as a permitted use.
According to Taylor, this was a permitted use under MU2 until it was taken out at some point late in the process.
Other members of the board said they would be open to those changes but did not want to pass the UDO with the changes that night. Phillip Wight’s motion to approve the UDO with two changes did not pass.
“I have no problem with having a discussion about that,” said Mayor Mike Eveland. “I think both of those could work out. I don’t think we will change it tonight, but I think it’s something that we can look at down the road.”
Tammy Wight brought up concerns she saw for service industry workers in Maggie Valley.
“Increasing the density of these lots makes it more expensive for them to purchase property, which makes it actually too expensive for them to live where they work,” she said. “I think that’s an issue I’m against increasing the density of the lots. I’m against taking people’s property rights away. I think that the campgrounds should be back, I think the property rights that we purchase these properties with and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for these properties, I feel like we should continue to have those rights.”
“I’m in a position where we’ve gone over and over this for months,” said Owens. “I understand people’s concerns. I’m sure as we go forward, we can tweak this as necessary based on input. We not only get from this board, but we get from the public. And also hopefully the guidance we get for the new land use map.”
Owens made the motion to accept the UDO as presented. Owens, Eveland and John Hinton voted to approve, while Tammy and Phillip Wight voted against.
“The new UDO allows Maggie Valley Town Board more authority and is again another government overreach of power,” said Tammy Wight. “With the proposed UDO, anyone can go before the board of aldermen and ask for a conditional use that is not shown as an allowable use. The board of alderman may permit a use, not shown as an allowed use for one property owner and may also disallow a use for another property owner based on bias and liability either by granting the request or simply stating that is not an allowed use. Fellow board members are ready to strip you of those property rights and it is okay because they have the power to do so. And you understand, they know what is best. I am against taking away property rights, I am against down zoning people’s property.”
Following the passage of the UDO, Hinton said that the board should address Taylor’s concern and look into why campgrounds and RV parks were removed from MU2. Tammy Wight argued that people don’t want a working document, they want something set in stone that they can go by.
“I think that we’re reaching the end of what’s been long overdue,” said Hinton. “What I like to hear is there seems to be a lot of flexibility in this evolving document that anything that we’ve talked about that we’d like to see or can see, we can adjust through an amendment or through the conditional zoning or even the land use plan after the land use plan comes out. I’m sure there’s going to be something else that we’re going to want to see or add.”
“This is definitely a living breathing document,” said Finkle.
Several members of the public expressed their appreciation to the board of aldermen, planning board and town staff for accomplishing this important task that has been several years coming.
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This news article needs to be corrected. There wasn’t an MU2 in the past. The property we own on Moody Farm Rd was C2 and RV Parks or Campgrounds were allowed by right. The planning board nor the Aldermen could explain why or when the down zoning occurred. The town planner said it was an allowed use by right in April. Three of the five Planning Board members were there at the meeting and none said it had been brought up in the May meeting to remove this as a use. All I wanted to know was why and who removed the use without that appointed or elected board having knowledge and why no one knew it before the public hearing when the zones and map were passed. Why was it so urgent to pass it on Monday night instead of waiting for the regular Town Board meeting coming this Tuesday, June 14th? It would have given people who are interested in their land use and zoning time for these boards to have checked into why this and possibly other uses miraculously disappeared after the public meetings were held. There is also a question in my mind of property that is not located in either the town or ETJ having been colored in and placed in a zone. It only makes sense that if you are going to do something to do it right so there wouldn’t be a need for State intervention. There was also other things that should have been discussed but since we didn’t have an opportunity to digest the final drafts, we may be in for some surprises along the way.