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Rezonings Denied, SUP Review Coming
April Town Board Meeting 2024
April 22, 2024

pril’s Town Board Meeting, held April 2, was well attended. Two public hearings for rezoning requests brought out residents of Midyette Street and Dolphin Point.

Commissioners Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, Frank Roe, Breena Litzenberger, and Bonnie Crosser were present. town hall sign Also attending: Mayor Sally Belangia, Town Manager Diane Miller, Deputy Finance Director Tammy Cox, and Police Officer Nic Blayney.

TownDock.net records all meetings, and writes the report from that recording. Links to prior articles with documentation are at the end of the article.

Unresponsive Commissioners
At the March Meeting, Roger Huth, a certified fraud examiner and Oriental resident, asked Commissioners several questions at the March meeting regarding the creation of the financial liaison position and the resignation of Public Works Director Andrew Cox. He told Commissioners he would email the questions, and asked for a response from each of them.

At the April meeting, during Public Comments, Huth said Commissioner Allen Price had not yet responded and Commissioner “Crosser refused after multiple email exchanges to respond to more than two of the questions before asking to meet, in lieu of providing the answers.” Huth said “Unnecessary turnover like this often leads to loss of institutional knowledge, and can negatively impact the organization’s culture and reputation.” He asked them to please answer his emailed questions.

Rezoning: From Residential to Commercial
The first of two rezoning public hearings was for a mixed use and residential lot at 807 Broad Street. The lot backs up to Midyette Street. Five signed up to speak.

807 Broad Street – Rezoning Request Originally two lots combined into one, the parcel at 807 Broad Street is zoned mixed use (MU) commercial. The Post Office and Oriental Deli sit on the front, commercial portion. The back portion is zoned R3 residential, is empty, and provides a buffer between the the commercially used space and the residential Midyette Street.

New owners sought to rezone the entire parcel to MU. In 2011, a similar rezoning attempt was made, but was never completed. Midyette Street residents protested the potential commercial use of their street and the land owner (different in 2011 than today) failed to show up for the hearings.

The 2011 situation was explained to the current owners who are building a restaurant and outside dining space. They changed their zoning request to instead move the MU line further into the R3 line. This would retain the buffer, but provide more room for outside dining.

The rezoning at 807 Broad Street proposes moving the red line in the middle back to the blue dotted line closer to Midyette Street.

Several residents were concerned about the noise levels from the restaurant, and commercial traffic potentially using an easement on the property to access Midyette Street.

“The use as a restaurant is allowed by right in the MU,” said Town Manager Diane Miller. Any noise generated there is subject to Oriental’s noise ordinance.

The R3 area, said Miller, cannot be used in any commercial way. Not for access to Midyette and not for any commercial purpose.

Six residents spoke against the zoning, including street residents Gwendolyn Gibbs and Dale Montgomery. No one spoke in favor of the rezoning.

Commissioner Litzenberger, who lives on Midyette, said she went door to door asking about the issue. “I don’t think anybody on Midyette Street is against businesses in town or growth. I think it was just a little more of a buffer was what they wanted.”

Commissioners unanimously voted against the rezoning.

604 Shorey Drive – Rezoning Request In 2019, property owner Martin Spratt intended to build multi-family homes – duplexes – at 604 Shorey Drive, and asked the parcel (about 30ish acres) to be annexed into the town. Commissioners approved, and it was zoned R3 at Spratt’s request.

A few years passed and construction on the homes never started.

In early 2024, a new request for the Shorey Drive property came through – to divide the parcel into two lots, around 10 and 20 acres respectively. The division was approved.

The next request was to rezone the larger lot (about 20ish acres) into an MU parcel. When rezoning is requested, the applicant must explain the proposed use of the land. However, the law states that use cannot be considered when granting or denying a zoning request. A proposed use can be changed and in the future, different owners could have a different purpose for the land.

After a zoning request is granted, a Special Use Permit or Land Use Permit must be approved before building begins. On the rezoning application, the proposed use was Executive RV Park.

The parcel at 604 Shorey Drive with proposed Executive RV Park.

The Planning Board held two hearings on the rezoning. After the initial hearing in February, the Planning Board was in favor of the rezoning. After notice of the public hearing went out, residents attended the March Planning Board meeting voicing their opposition.

With that new information, the Planning Board made no recommendation to the Board of Commissioners. The reason: the request both complies with and is in opposition to the town’s Growth Management Ordinance. Specifically that the town wants to foster commercial growth, but also wants to protect the waterways and residential areas.

Though the hearing was only for the rezoning request, many residents spoke against the proposed Executive RV Park use.

Mayor Belangia received 24 emails against the rezoning and no emails for it. Twenty residents signed up to speak. Most were against it. While there was no one supporting the rezoning, a few residents has other input to give.

The project engineer was there to answer questions and state her client’s position.

Of those that spoke against, one resident, Rick Everest said he wanted signage on White Farm Rd saying Dolphin Point was part of Oriental. “I feel like we are quasi-town, quasi-county and even considering this request reflects that… so let’s put the sign out there and let’s really include us.”

Commissioners unanimously voted against the rezoning.

Most of the residents left the room after the hearing.

Special Use Permits and Short Term Rentals
The Bond family asked the residence at 301 Ragan Road, on the corner of Ragan Road and Neuse Drive, be used as a part-time Short Term Rental.

The property is located in an R2 zone and the use of a short term rental is allowed. Oriental’s Special Use Permit (SUP) process requires surrounding property owners to present the burden of proof as to why an SUP should not be allowed. Oriental is one of the few municipalities in the state to put the burden on neighbors instead of the applicant.

Dan Forman was the only one to speak during this public hearing. He asked Commissioners to change the process so short term rentals in Oriental could be curbed.

There was no evidence given at the April meeting as to why the Ragan Road SUP should not be allowed. It also met all the criteria necessary to grant an SUP.

The Bond family’s Short Term Rental Special Use Permit passed in a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Crosser and Roe against.

Moratorium Request & SUP Process Revision
The Bond Family’s request brought up the subject of how SUPs happen in Oriental.

In Oriental, Special Use Permits depend on neighboring properties to show evidence that granting the permit will be a detriment to the surrounding area. SUPs can be granted for a variety of reasons. Short term rentals, schools, breweries, marinas, and daycares all require approval of a Special Use Permit.

Once approved, the permit stays with the property, even if the property changes hands. The SUP can be revoked if the terms under which it was granted are violated.

Oriental is an oddity in how it grants Special Use Permits. Almost all other municipalities in North Carolina put the burden of proof on the applicant, rather than on the neighboring property owners.

Since the rise of AirBnB (in the early 2010s) and other companies allowing residents to rent their entire home, the number of SUPs for short term rentals has increased. It has also resulted in empty homes and out-of-town owners who cannot be contacted in case of an emergency or unruly guests.

There has been talk of reviewing the SUP process (and the short term rental process) to bring it inline with other towns in the state.

Commissioner Roe asked for a moratorium on the SUP process until it could be changed to put the burden of proof on the applicant. Crosser agreed a moratorium was needed. Town Manager Miller said a moratorium takes time, including a public hearing, to institute – at least 60 days.

Manager Miller said that when an SUP request is in process, it cannot be stopped – there are state mandated time requirements to have the SUP instated. The moratorium would have to precede the request in order to take effect.

Commissioner Overcash made a motion for Manager Miller to “pursue changing the SUP process [to put the burden of proof on the applicant] through whatever means – the lawyer, the Planning Board – to expedite as much as possible.” An investigation of the moratorium process was added to the motion.

Commissioner Allen Price disagreed. “I’m okay with the SUP process the way it is. We bought our property under these rules, and now we’re changing the rules of the game.” Price lives in an MU-1 district that allows both residential and commercial.

Residents living in R2 (a residential district) have said at past meetings that Short Term Rentals in any residential area are a problem.

Commissioner Overcash’s motion to change the SUP process passed, 4-1 with Price against.

Auxiliary Board Openings
Two Auxiliary Boards are in need of members: the Harbor Waterfronts Board and the town’s representative to the Bay River Sewer Metropolitan Board.

Interested residents can apply online at the Town’s website.

Daniel Early moved into Public Works Director position
Daniel Early has been given more responsibility since Andrew Cox left. Manager Miller said he should be compensated for the additional workload.

Commissioners voted unanimously to move Early into the position of Public Works Director and interim Water Plant ORC through June, with commensurate compensation. Commissioners will discuss separating the two positions at the Budget meeting.

Commissioner Roe requested ‘Welcome to Oriental’ signs leading out to Dolphin Point.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, May 7 at 6p. The next Town Budget meeting is Wednesday, April 24 at 9a.

Related Information
• April Meeting Agenda
Consent Agenda
Manager’s Report
807 Broad Street Rezoning Request
604 Shorey Drive Rezoning Request
301 Ragan Rd SUP Short Tern Rental
Budget Amendmets
Police Report
Auxiliary Board Reports

Posted Monday April 22, 2024 by Allison DeWeese

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