The Town of Smithfield has begun the process of overhauling 443 pages of rules that govern development in and around town.
Smithfield last updated its Unified Development Ordinance eight years ago. It’s time for a fresh edit, said Dale Holland, the consultant helping the town with the rewrite.
“These are going to be real headaches and big decisions,” Holland told the committee that’s in charge of the overhaul. “But this ordinance governs a huge amount of rules and regulations for Smithfield. ... It needs work.”
One problem with the 8-year-old UDO is that some rules are vague, making enforcement hard.
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That struck a chord with committee member Teresa Daughtry, a Smithfield Planning Board member and commercial real estate broker. “I just want to make sure that we’re enforcing things the way they should be,” she said. “We have some issues in parts of town where rules aren’t being followed.”
Last month, the committee held the first meeting in what town leaders say will be an 18-month process that will cost taxpayers $57,500, with most of the money going to the consulting firm.
Like Holland, Smithfield planning director Paul Embler said the committee has a long, tough job ahead. On top of rules that are vague, the UDO has regulations that are outdated, and Smithfield needs to add other rules to reflect changes brought about by the N.C. General Assembly.
“There’s a lot of ground we have to cover in not a lot of time,” Embler said. “We’ve only just begun.”
In addition to Daughtry and Embler, members of the committee are Councilmen Emery Ashley and John Dunn, planning board members Stephen Uptown and Mark Lane, Robert Worsham of the Appearance Commission and Mark Helmer of the planning staff.
The committee will begin its work with sections 1-5 of the UDO. It’s some pretty dry but important stuff: general provisions; basic definitions and interpretations; administration of the rules; amendments; and appeals, variances and interpretations.
Smithfield has said it wants =the public to help the committee with its work, and the first meeting drew five citizens. Among other things, the citizens learned about special-use permits, which essentially allow development but under strict conditions. They learned too that rezoning requests and similar planning matters require hearings that are much like court proceedings, with witnesses sworn in.
Among many things, a UDO regulates the height of buildings, density of development, appearance of buildings, signs, and where shops, homes and industry can locate.
The committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Town Hall. All of the meetings are open to the public. To make suggestions, leave comments or learn more, go to www.plansmithfield.net.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett