Smithfield is overhauling its development rules – a 443-page document called the Unified Development Ordinance – and wants its citizens to weigh in.
Among many things, the UDO regulates the height of buildings, the density of development, the appearance of buildings and where shops, homes and industries can locate.
Some of the rules are outdated, and some can be confusing, said Paul Embler, the town’s planning director. The aim of the update is to streamline the rules and clear up any confusion, he said.
The committee updating the UDO is made up of Councilmen Emery Ashley and John Dunn; planning board members Stephen Upton, Teresa Daughtry and Mark Lane; Robert Worsham of the Appearance Commission; and Embler and Mark Helmer of the planning staff.
Starting this month, the committee intends to meet at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday at Town Hall, Embler said. All the meetings are open to the public, and citizen comment is welcomed, he said.
“We really need the citizens’ input,” Embler said. “This is the document that’s going to regulate how Smithfield looks in the coming years. Once adopted by the Town Council, unless they change it, this is what staff’s got to work with when anybody builds or demolishes anything. It’s an important document.”
The committee is charged with analyzing all 443 pages of the UDO with the help of a consultant. The process will cost the town $57,500.
“It’s an entire revision,” Embler said.
The committee will begin with the basics – definitions and rules that apply to most developments. At the same time, it will look at landscaping rules, which determine, for example, what trees and plants a development must plant to meet appearance requirements.
Among the biggest changes will be adding graphics to the ordinance, Embler said. “The new ordinance will look dramatically different,” he said. “There will be a lot more graphics to represent how things should be rather than trying to describe it with words.”
The UDO will also tackle solar farms, Embler said. The town has been handling those through conditional-use permits instead of giving them their own set of rules.
“Since solar farms look like they’re here to stay, we’re going to develop an ordinance specifically to address solar farms,” Embler said.
The committee will then tackle rules that have been confusing or hard to enforce, including rules about signs and landscaping.
The committee aims to have a draft ready in September, Embler said. From there, it will go to the planning board for its review and to the Town Council for approval, most likely by year’s end.
The last time the town undertook a revision of the UDO, it needed 18 months to complete the work, Embler said.
“This is a pretty aggressive schedule,” he said.
The committee is working on a plan to seek public input. That includes a website where residents can comment on the ordinance.
To make suggestions or leave comments for the UDO committee, go to www.plansmithfield.net. People also can sign up there to receive updates about the process.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennet