Maggie board denies slew of rezoning requests
“The motion passes, three to two,” is becoming an ever more common phrase during Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen meetings. Whether the board is discussing food trucks or property zoning, the vote is becoming predictable. Last Tuesday was no different.
At its regular March meeting, the board denied all three rezoning requests from Maggie Valley land owners and their agent-in-common, Coastal Development Carolina, LLC, of which Ghost Town developer Frankie Wood is managing member, by votes of 3-2.
Requests were made for portions of all three properties to be rezoned R3, high density residential, instead of the lower density residential zone they are currently in.
Legally, zoning and rezoning requests can’t take into account the plans of property owners or developers. Zoning decisions should be a broader consideration based on consistency with surrounding properties and the uses allowed in each zone. Town Attorney Craig Justus reminded the public and the board of this several times throughout the meeting.
However, members of the public seemed caught up on what they saw as a lack of clear plans for the three properties, complaining that Coastal Development Carolina, LLC would opt for the highest possible density on each property. Many members of the public discussed rumors they’d heard about RV parks and trailer parks planned for the properties.
RVs are not allowed in any residential zone but must be part of Planned Unit Developments. Singlewides and doublewides are allowed in both R2 and R3 zones. However, one of the main differences between R2 and R3 zoning, other than permitted lot size, is that mobile home parks are permitted under R3, but only with a special use permit that would have to be approved by the zoning board of adjustment.
The three members of the board who voted against all three zoning requests did so for a few stated reasons. John Hinton voiced concern over granting R3 zoning when the town is currently working to develop a Unified Development Ordinance. He and Jim Owens said they have concerns over permitted uses in the current R3 zoning.
“I have a problem with doing R3 this close to a big UDO,” said Hinton. “And I’m concerned about the permitted uses that are allowed under R3.”
Both Tammy and Phillip Wight argued that it wasn’t fair to stop the process of zoning or granting rezoning requests simply because the town was working through the process of completing its UDO. Members of the board have been trying to get the UDO completed since at least 2015. Tammy Wight also noted that both town staff and the planning board recommended granting the rezoning requests for all three properties.
“I want to ask all my fellow board members, do all of you understand zoning laws and regulations better than an experienced paid town employee, hired as an expert in her field with multiple master’s degrees?” asked Tammy Wight. “And if so, why are we wasting our time and taxpayers’ money to fund this position? We have hired the best of the best. We should give her opinion credence or we need to stop wasting taxpayers time and money. Campgrounds and RV parks are not allowed in R3.”
The first of three properties up for rezoning was 29 Playhouse Road, owned by Hazel and Bart Campbell. The property is 7.82 acres, currently split-zoned C1 (commercial business) and R1 (low density residential). The property owners came before the board to request that the low density residential portion of the property (5.6 acres) be rezoned R3, high density residential.
The property is bordered by more commercial business districts, as well as low-density residential areas. However, the flea market that borders the property, though zoned R1, low-density residential, is in legal-nonconformity to its assigned zoning.
According to Town Planner Kaitland Finkle, referenced in the previous quote by Tammy Wight, the future land use map calls for the Playhouse Road property to be zoned high density residential, equivalent to the current R3. On Feb. 10, the planning board unanimously approved the request for rezoning; both staff and the planning board recommended the board of aldermen approve the request to rezone the property R3.
Betty Joe Campbell Beasley, whose family has owned the property since the 1950s, spoke in favor of rezoning.
“It’s time for change, it’s time to open your eyes, it’s time to let Maggie grow,” said Campbell Beasley. “Both sides can work together, and Maggie Valley needs to work together, not against each other.”
Among those members of the public arguing against granting the rezoning request was Tammy Hartzog of Kamp n’ Kountry. She said she was representing a majority of members of her community that did not want to see high density zoning for the Playhouse Road property. Many of their concerns centered on Rocky Top Road, a notoriously narrow road in poor condition that also provides access to the property in question.
“I think this is an easy one. I don’t see how it was ever zoned R1,” said Phillip Wight. “The planning board and staff recommend it; it fits the mold in every way as to why it should be R3.”
“We’re dealing with a UDO that is 15 years old,” said Jim Owens. “Maggie Valley has changed dramatically in 15 years. I’ve got issues with R3 as it stands. I’m hoping that when we get the new UDO to look at, and the land use plan, we can do a better job of planning our future growth. With the new UDO plan, there may be a high-density plan that fits here that doesn’t have a cornucopia of uses that are in the current plan.”
The motion to deny the rezoning request passed 3-2; Mayor Mike Eveland, Jim Owens and John Hinton voted in the affirmative, against the rezoning request, while Tammy Wight and Phillip Wight voted against the motion, in favor of granting the rezoning request.
The next two properties up for rezoning came and went in a similar fashion with both planning board and town staff recommending approval of the rezoning requests and the board denying the requests 3-2.
The second property, owned by Jerry and Sandra Day is located at 217 Campbell Creek Road. The 6.1-acre plot is currently zoned R2 with the property owner requesting rezoning to R3. It is bordered by both R1 and C1 zones. However, the property is bordered by Kamp n’ Kountry which is a high-density development, legally nonconforming in its low-density residential zone.
The staff recommendation to approve the rezoning request of R3 was based upon compliance with the future land use map designation as high density residential, as well as high density adjacent properties.
Tammy Wight once again spoke in favor of accepting the recommendation of the planning board and town staff and granting the rezoning request. Annexation of this property was approved on Aug. 17, 2021, and initial zoning was set by the board of aldermen at R2 , instead of the requested R3, in October.
The rezoning request was denied, once again with the Wights in favor and Eveland, Hinton and Owens against.
The third property up for rezoning is owned by Robert Hotchkiss. Currently split zoned C1 and R1, the property owner was requesting the R1 portion to be rezoned to R3. The property is bordered by other C1 property, as well as the high-density residential developments Appalachian Village and Raven Ridge. Raven Ridge is zoned R2 but is legally nonconforming to that zone and fits within the R3 designation.
According to Finkle, the future land use map calls for this entire property to be zoned Soco Road Mixed Use. This zoning district does not exist today but is proposed in the new UDO zoning map. The Soco Road Mixed Use zone would allow for high density residential as the property owner was requesting.
Several residents of Appalachian Village and Raven Ridge spoke out against rezoning the property R3.
“First, I want to make the emphatic point that Appalachian Village is not opposed to higher density development on the Hotchkiss property. We’ve expected this to happen eventually; we are concerned that it fits the single-family residential nature of the adjoining community,” said David Libran, HOA president of Appalachian Village. “Allowing R3 density development on that property will allow, I’m not saying it’s planned for, it will allow much more than this.”
Another woman spoke about the trials of owning and selling property in Maggie Valley amid recent issues over zoning . She owns property adjacent to the third property up for rezoning.
“I am not really opposed to R3 or what they use that for. I will say that it’s the owner’s property and they have a right to do what’s within their zoning,” she said. “What we need is to not have had to wait since you knew there was a problem with R3 in 2015 to 2022 to be able to do what we want to with our property. I’ve had three offers on that property but because of the environment in Maggie Valley with what zoning is and could be and might not be, they have said ‘we’re now going to have to wait.’ Why should me as a seller or a buyer have to wait after you’ve had seven years since you knew there was a problem to fix the problem? I think that is really awful.”
The board again voted three to two to deny the rezoning request for the third property in question.
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The town boards have been working on the UDO for over 7 years already. The document has changed and evolved over that time period. We currently have 2 newly elected members that campaigned on no more RV Parks, no more mobile homes, and no more R -3 or dense housing. They don’t know State law, and they don’t understand spot zoning. Yet, not knowing, they still overrule the recommendations of town staff and the appointed planning and zoning boards. In their haste to shut down future development, along with a future growth plan to bring families and tourists back to Maggie Valley, they have failed to see the big picture. Yes, bed tax collections are up due to the VRBO and AirB&B’s finally paying their fair share thanks to the leadership of the current Board and Director of the HCTDA. I wanted to believe this was due to their lack of knowledge on what actually makes our Town work, but now believe they are being malicious in their desire to shut our town tourism down in favor of making it into a retirement community. This Mayor with his 2 members in lock step, talk about smart growth. So far, their idea of smart growth has been to put out the message of being the town of “NO” to developers and “NO” to growth. The town was headed in the right direction until last November. Now, it will take years to find people willing to put up money to help us grow our town in the future.