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Letters: GMO Change Could Put Schools, Churches in R1 'Hoods
Writer Warns of Noise, Traffic, "SUP du jour"
October 11, 2017

O
riental’s Planning Board spent the past several months drawing up recommended changes to the Growth Management Ordinance. This was sparked by concerns raised in the past year when a controversial trawler-painting operation was planned on Oriental’s harbor, upwind of town. By proposed new definitions, industries in town would have to contain pollutants on their property, if not in a building. Amid the Planning Board’s recommendations for setting standards is one that would loosen zoning regs in Oriental’s R1 residential neighborhoods to allow institutions – church buildings, schools as well as “similar uses.” Letter writer Richard Knapp lives in one of the R1 areas of town and opposes making that change to the GMO.

To the Editor:

A
fter attending the Town Board meeting on October 3, I would like to bring to the attention of the citizens of Oriental concerns about proposed changes to the Growth Management Ordinance in Residential District R-1.  Under consideration by the Town Board are changes that would permit, with the approval of a Special Use Permit, activities that have until now been restricted.  They include: 

Establishment of: Section 5.11 – Elementary and Secondary Schools Section 5.2 – Religious Institutions Section 5.3 – Libraries, Museums, Art Galleries, Art Centers and Similar Uses

All of the above activities would create a burden on adjoining properties in the form of increased noise, traffic and congestion not consistent with the intent of R1 low density residential zoning.  For example, while children are great, can you imagine having the 10a recess break in your neighbor’s back yard by a dozen or so pent-up 8 year olds, 5 days a week?  There are schools that have recently opened in Pamlico County and this is a real possibility.

The other activities mentioned also have their own challenges being consistent with intentions of R1 zoning.  The concept of ‘Similar Uses’ is far too open ended and opens the door to just about anything.

At the meeting, Commissioner David White indicated that this is consistent with the way Special Use Permits have been handled in the past and any SUP would be subject to the current process which includes protections for adjacent property owners.  While this is certainly true, the onus to prove that no harm would be incurred shifts to the owner of the adjacent property rather than the applicant.  In other words, anyone wanting to maintain the integrity of their zoned R1 property must be continuously on guard, ready to defend against the approval of one of these special uses.  I guess you would be just out of luck if you happen to be out of town for any extended period of time.

Simply put, I believe that when someone invests in an R1 property, it is with the understanding that there are protections guaranteed by the Town.  In a sense, it forms an informal contract with the town to uphold the intent of the zoning under which that property was purchased.  Property owners should not be forced to guard against the ‘Special Use Permit du jour’ that could come along without warning.

This portion of the proposed changes to the GMO came close to a vote October 3rd and likely would have passed had it not been for Allen Price’s motion to table this matter until the next meeting of the board in an effort to seek additional input from the community.  I would like to encourage individuals to reach out to the town commissioners and express their opinion, and also participate in the next Town Board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, November 8th at 7p. 

Richard Knapp
Oriental
October 4, 2017


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