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Planning Board pushes back on zoning rewrite

Hendersonville Planning Board members rejected a rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance that would restrict numerous uses in the commercial zoning districts that cover downtown and the Historic Seventh Avenue District.

 

The City Council in August rezoned a five-block area in the Seventh Avenue District from R-6 residential to central mixed-use but expressed reservations about automatically allowing the larger and more intensive commercial uses. The overlay zone takes in the property on Ashe Street that will be home to the new city police headquarters, an improvement that council members say could be a catalyst for districtwide renewal.

Under the current code, the CMU zone currently allows 49 uses “by right,” meaning those uses are authorized automatically.

A proposed amendment drafted by city planners would remove 18 of the 49 uses currently allowed “by right” and subject them to approval by the city Zoning Board Adjustment as a conditional use. Susan Frady, director of the Department of Development Assistance, told the Planning Board on Monday that the council thought adding conditional use review would make development requests more transparent.

“Why are we ratcheting up in the name of openness the degree and severity of the review?” Planning Board Chair Steve Orr said. “Now you’re going to have to have an attorney and end up with experts to testify and end up with a much longer process and a much more rancorous process. I don’t think that benefits anybody. I understand the openness but you’re taking a sledgehammer to a peanut and I think that’s going to be too much.”

Other board members supported Orr’s position, adding that the quasi-judicial process in the Zoning Board of Adjustment would be too burdensome on applicants who want to develop property.

The uses that would no longer be permitted by right are animal hospitals without outdoor kennels, car washes, banks and other financial institutions, bus stations, business services, convenience stores with or without gasoline sales, funeral homes, hotels and motels, microbreweries, newspaper offices and printing establishments, business, professional and public offices, parking lots and parking garages, personal services, public and semi-public buildings, repair services, restaurants, retail stores, and theaters.

In a unanimous vote, the Planning Board directed the planning staff to draft a less rigorous form of review that achieves the openness the City Council wants.