Planning board members on Monday sided with a Zebulon staff recommendation that would make it possible for bars and nightclubs to operate in more areas of town.
The proposed changes are expected to undergo final consideration at the July board of commissioners meeting.
The code of ordinances currently allows bar, tavern, nightclub and lounge activity only in the town’s heavy business district, and only by way of a special use permit.
Heavy business zoning is prevalent in retail-dense areas like West Gannon Avenue, North Arendell Avenue (north of U.S. 64/264) and the Triangle East shopping center on Wakelon Street. It also exists sporadically in other areas of town.
“This zoning requirement is not in line with zoning ordinances in other municipalities,” said planner Matt Watterson, making the point that zoning in other local towns is less restrictive of bars and clubs.
The planning board voted Monday in favor of opening the commercial business, general business, light industrial and heavy industrial zoning districts to those types of uses. Those four zones generally occur alongside or nearby heavy business districts and include a significant portion of the parcels along Old U.S. 264 and Gannon Avenue and in downtown.
Planning Director Mark Hetrick said the amendment would be an easy change that would address interest the town has received from people searching for a place to open a bar-type establishment.
Hetrick said there have been a couple inquiries this year in downtown Zebulon, an area with numerous vacant storefronts. Nothing came to pass, however, because the ordinance does not allow bars in the downtown storefronts, which are zoned commercial business.
Zebulon has one bar, El Nuevo Tenampa, in a heavy business zone on West Horton Street that is grandfathered from needing an up-to-date special use permit.
“Most of the (existing) alcohol sales are through restaurants that have bars, but as far as a special use permit solely for a bar or nightclub, things of those nature, none currently exist,” Hetrick said.
Other actions: The planning board also approved a text amendment Monday that could give some developers the option of paying a fee-in-lieu for future roadway improvements, pending approval by the town board.
The option is expected to dovetail roadway improvements for new development with upcoming projects outlined in the town’s transportation plan update. It would be offered when required site improvements would interfere with future transportation projects.
The fee-in-lieu, expected to phase out parts of the current bond system for site-specific development, would also benefit developers by giving them a chance to pay in full for improvements at current market costs during the building permit process.
An amendment adjusting setback requirements for accessory structures in all zoning districts was also approved by the planning board.
The recommendation calls for the required setbacks to be decreased from 10 feet to 3 feet from the rear and side of property lines, and from 10 feet to 5 feet from principal structures and from other accessory structures.