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County set to roll back development rules

 Developers would be allowed to reduce the curve radius from 90 feet to as little as 40 feet provided they widened the road enough to accommodate long vehicles. Pictured is a new road in the Boulders on Stoney Mountain. Developers would be allowed to reduce the curve radius from 90 feet to as little as 40 feet provided they widened the road enough to accommodate long vehicles. Pictured is a new road in the Boulders on Stoney Mountain.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners, striving to "enhance the county's business friendly climate," is poised to roll back land development regulations.


The proposed changes, which have the unanimous endorsement of the county Planning Board, were presented this month by Planning Director Anthony Starr. Commissioners reacted favorably to the proposals, which they will take up on Wednesday after a public hearing.
The proposals would reduce parking requirements for apartments and factories, eliminate soil erosion permits for small projects, cut setback requirements for sheds and other accessory structures from 10 to 5 feet, loosen the curve requirements for private subdivision roads, and eliminate legal advertisements and public hearings for comprehensive plan amendments.
"We have a good reputation of being business friendly but they wanted to make it more so," Starr said. "There's always room for improvement."
The staff drew up the changes after about three months of discussion with the Planning Board. Some of the changes, Starr pointed out, should be considered environmentally friendly, too, because they would reduce the acreage of pavement and clearing of trees while also saving developers time and money. Reducing the apartment and condo requirements by 25 percent and factory parking by 87.5 percent will mean less clear-cutting and less stormwater runoff.
"A lot of these standards were written in the '60s and '70s and haven't been substantially altered in decades," Starr said. "In industrial development, market conditions have changed. It used to be if you had 100,000 square feet of floor space you might have 100 workers. Now you might have a dozen.
"What we don't want to do is have way more parking spaces than they need because that just adds to stormwater runoff and drives up their cost."
Here's a rundown of the changes:
Parking: Multifamily parking requirements would be reduced from two spaces to one and a half spaces per dwelling unit. Industrial parking would be reduced from one space for each 500 square feet to one space for each 4,000 square feet (the same as the existing requirement for warehouses). For a 100,000-square-foot factory, the change would reduce parking from 200 to 25 spaces.
Accessory structure setbacks: Current rule requires a 10-foot setback from the property line for all districts. The planners recommend halving that to 5 feet. The lower number is a "common standard for many jurisdictions" and "provides better use of property," planners said. The rule would not override subdivision convenants or buffer requirements.
Soil erosion plans: Currently the county requires a sketch plan and permit for disturbing more than 100 square feet of dirt. A formal erosion permit is required for development that moves dirt on one acre of flat land, a half-acre on a 15 percent slope, and a quarter-acre on a 25 percent slope. The county issues 25-40 permits a month for minor dirt moving and charges no fee. Planners recommended the Board of Commissioners eliminate those.
Curve radius of new subdivision roads: The planners propose to significantly reduce the curve radii in exchange for a greater road width to accommodate emergency vehicles. Starr said planners used the longest fire truck in the county, a Hendersonville ladder truck, to calculate how wide the road needed to be if developers made curves less sharp than current law allows. The changes will reduce development costs by reducing the amount of cut and fill developers must make on steeper slopes to meet the stricter curve radii requirement. The idea came from a Planning Board member and engineer, Starr said. Developers would be allowed to reduce the curve radius from 90 feet to as little as 40 feet provided they widened the road enough to accommodate long vehicles. The road width would have to grow from 16 feet for a 90-foot radius to 24 feet for a 40-foot radius.
Public notice and public hearings: The planners propose that the Board of Commissioners eliminate legal advertising and public hearing requirement for substantive amendments to the County Comprehensive Plan (CCP) amendments. Both the legal notice and public hearing would still be required for rezoning requests. Starr said he did not think legal advertising was effective in publicizing land-use changes. "In almost 17 years of experience not once has somebody come up to me and said I read a legal ad and I have a question," he said. The proposal requires the Planning Department to post a notice of the change on the county website, something Starr says the department does already. The change "provides greater flexibility to promote development where a CCP change is needed."
The Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on all the proposed Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code amendments at 9 a.m. on Sept. 19.