Developers who hope to build in Fuquay-Varina are required to interpret and abide by a set of regulations first drafted more than 50 years ago.
“That ordinance has had Band-Aids added to it for many years now,” Fuquay-Varina Planning Director Mike Sorensen said. “And it’s become very difficult to find anything in there. It doesn’t read well, and there’s a lot of ambiguity.”
That’s why Fuquay-Varina is starting from scratch – for the first time since 1965. After three and a half years of deliberation and fine-tuning, the Board of Commissioners will vote this week whether to approve what’s known as a Land Development Ordinance, or LDO. The LDO is a comprehensive document containing, among other things, town zoning codes, subdivision ordinances and environmental standards.
On Monday, Oct. 3, there will be a final public hearing before the board takes action on the 831-page document. If approved, it would take effect on Dec. 30.
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The planning board unanimously recommended the LDO’s approval at its Sept. 19 meeting.
Sorensen said Fuquay-Varina is the only town in Wake County yet to adopt this kind of comprehensive document, which many other municipalities call a “unified development ordinance,” or UDO. Fuquay-Varina’s current set of development ordinances was passed in 1965 when Fuquay-Varina was still a sleepy agricultural town.
Town Manager Adam Mitchell said Fuquay-Varina’s relative distance from the core of the Triangle meant the growth pressures that forced other towns to revise their development ordinances earlier didn’t reach Fuquay-Varina until somewhat later.
“The other part of it is that the town has taken an aggressive approach to other projects,” Mitchell said. “Where we weren’t the first to take on this kind of ordinance, we are among the more progressive when it comes to things like parks, for instance.”
Town staff recommended that the town begin the process of compiling an LDO sometime in the fall of 2012, Sorensen said, and the first meetings took place in March 2013.
The project is meant to consolidate development ordinances into a single document where they had previously been scattered across several.
The substance of the ordinance will be somewhat simplified as well, Mitchell said. The zoning code, for instance, will be condensed by rolling multiple little-used or minutely defined zoning classifications into one. Zoning districts named R-40, R-30 and R-20, for example, will now fall under the more intuitive umbrella of “residential agricultural” districts.
“We’re making it simpler to understand for a developer or an investor,” Mitchell said. “We don’t want the process of doing a project in our town to be cumbersome or difficult.”
Much of the ordinance is concerned with similarly technical details, but it begins by laying out some broader goals for the town’s growth. Those include a preference for mixed-use development, the desire to encourage grid-based, walkable commercial and downtown districts, and a commitment to form-based code, a relatively modern type of development regulation that allows developers more flexibility when designing mixed-use projects.
A committee of stakeholders was involved in the process, which included developers, engineers, the Fuquay-Varina Chamber of Commerce, attorneys and others.
“There were a few things, to be honest about it, that they wished we didn’t have,” Sorensen said. “Some of it had to do with our open space development and them wanting to do away with the amount of open space required or the common green area. We weren’t willing to do that.”
But another purpose of these meetings, as well as advertisements and an entire website dedicated to the LDO, Sorensen said, is to ensure word gets out that Fuquay-Varina’s development landscape is changing.
“At the planning board meeting, we thought we’d have a lot of people come in and talk, but we didn’t have a single person stand up,” he said. “We just know there’s going to be that person who comes to us saying, ‘I didn’t know this was happening.’ ”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan
Learn about the Land Development Ordinance at tofv-ldo.squarespace.com. A final public hearing on the LDO is at the Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 401 Old Honeycutt Road, Fuquay-Varina.