Garner town council members were faced with what has become an unusual request in recent years. Two property owners appeared before council asking for a general rezoning of their property.
They didn’t have particular plans for their property. They simply wanted the land rezoned. That’s certainly a request that’s within reason for any property owner. But in recent years, as development pressure has increased, property owners have found it easier to seek rezoning when they have a specific use in mind. That gives council members a level of comfort in knowing what will be on the property and assurances that some undesirable use won’t be considered for the land like, say, a hog processing plant that sits right next door to a neighborhood of $300,000 homes.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council members were concerned about granting the requests without knowing how the property would be used.
But zoning is a pretty regimented thing. The town’s land use rules spell out what land can be used for based on the zone it is in. Land zoned for residential purposes, for instance, can’t be used to build a factory. Land zoned for commercial purposes can’t include a housing subdivision. The zones help keep growth orderly so that land uses transition in a way that makes sense and incompatible uses are not located next to each other – like the expensive homes and the hog plant.
Within each zone, there is a list of permitted uses. Those lists are pretty exhaustive and, for the most part, take into account just about any kind of land use you can think of. In most zones, there are uses that are permitted without any additional action on the property owners part. There are other uses that may be allowed under certain conditions. And there are still other uses that require even more scrutiny by government leaders, but could be approved by the town. In both the latter two cases, specific plans must be presented.
In the case of generally permitted uses, planning board members and town council members should carefully consider the uses allowed in a zone before they OK it. If the most distasteful of those possible uses is acceptable, then it’s fine to allow the rezoning. If that particular use were to be unacceptable in that area, then council should nix the request.
Council members also have another tool at their disposal. The town’s long-range growth plan guides how growth should occur. It outlines what part of town would be best suited for particular kinds of uses. If the rezoning request meets the guidelines of the long-range plan, the council can comfortably approve the request.
General use rezonings are an oddity these days, but they shouldn’t be viewed as something the town should avoid.