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BURLINGTON PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION

 

March 28, 2005

 

Council Chamber, Burlington Municipal Building

 

 

CITY MEMBERS:

EXTRATERRITORIAL MEMBERS:

George Byrd, Chairman, Present

Bud Apple, Present

Jim Burwell, Secretary, Present

John Enoch, Absent

Paul Cobb, Present

Richard Franks, Present

Lynn Cowan, Present

Jim Johnson, Present

Elder Greg Hargrave, Present

Ellis Piper, Absent

Gordon Millspaugh, Present

Bob Ware, Present

 

STAFF PRESENT:

 

Robert R. Harkrader, Director of Planning and Economic Development

Kurt Pearson, Assistant Director of Planning Services

Haywood Cloud, Zoning/Subdivision Administrator

Daniel Shoffner, Planner I

Dianne Fogleman, Office Assistant

 

 

ITEM NO. 1Chairman Byrd called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.

 

ITEM NO. 2: Minutes of the meeting held February 28, 2005, were unanimously approved.  This was a City and extraterritorial item.

 

ITEM NO. 3: Consent agenda:  (City)

 

(A)     Mr. Jay Lowe, representing Mr. Mike Herron, presented an application for final plat approval of the Herron Hills Subdivision, Phase 1.  The property is located on the east side of NC Highway 62 North approximately 530 feet south of Carriage Loop as shown on plans by Carolina Cornerstone Surveying and Land Design dated February 8, 2005, and containing three lots. (NOTE: At the beginning of the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, no one was in attendance to present this application.  Commission Member Cobb made a motion to table this item until the end of the meeting.  Jim Burwell seconded the motion.  The Commission voted unanimously to table this item until the end of the meeting.  Mr. Lowe arrived at the meeting, and the Commission considered the item. Staff recommended approval of the plat. Commission Member Cobb made a motion to recommend approval of the plat.  Jim Burwell seconded the motion.  The Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of (A).)

 

(B)     Mr. Byron O. Baker presented an application for final plat approval of the Byron O. and Shirley Baker and Tony S. and Carolyn B. Madren Subdivision.  The property is located on the east side of NC Highway 62 North approximately 836 feet south of Carriage Loop as shown on plans by Jeffrey T. Allred, P.L.S., dated March 4, 2005, and containing three lots.

 

(C)     Mr. John Somers, representing Messiah Lutheran Church, presented an application for final plat approval of the Messiah Lutheran Church Subdivision.  The property is located at 511 North Sellars Mill Road approximately 300 feet north of McKinney Street and 240 feet south of Morningside Drive as shown on plans by John D. Somers Surveyors dated December 9, 2004, and containing two lots.

 

         Staff recommended approval of (B) and (C).

 

         Commission Member Millspaugh made a motion to recommend approval of (B) and (C).  Paul Cobb seconded the motion.  The Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of (B) and (C).

 

         Consent agenda:  (Extraterritorial)

 

(D)     Mr. Jimmy Collins with Concept Builders, Inc., presented an application for preliminary plan approval of the Burchwood Commons Subdivision.  The property is located on the south side of Burch Bridge Road approximately 70 feet east of the northern right-of-way line of Old Glencoe Road as shown on plans by Fleming Engineering, Inc., dated March 9, 2005, and containing 64 lots.

 

(E)     Mr. James Chinnici presented an application for final plat approval of the John P. Boone Subdivision.  The property is located on the southwest side of Burch Bridge Road approximately 390 feet south of Brook Mill Court as shown on plans by Alley, Williams, Carmen and King, Inc., dated February 15, 2005, and containing four lots.

 

         Staff recommended approval of (D) and (E).

 

         Commission Member Cobb made a motion to approve (D) and to recommend approval of (E).  Bud Apple seconded the motion.  The Commission voted unanimously to approve (D) and to recommend approval of (E).

 

ITEM NO. 4: Mr. Thomas Lindley, Jr., representing JTL Properties, LLC, presented an application to rezone from B-2, General Business District, to CB, Conditional Business District, to allow construction of a telecommunications tower for Internet and data communication.  The property is located at 2260 South Church Street in the Executive Park West Office Plaza approximately 215 feet east of South Gurney Street as shown on Alamance County Tax Map 12, Block 16, a portion of Lot 4.

 

This was a City item.

 

Mr. Lindley explained that the proposed tower will not be as tall as a cell tower and would be used for the Internet and other data communication.

 

Commission Secretary Burwell asked about the tower height and was told it would be 80 feet, which will be above the treetops.  Mr. Lindley distributed photos of a similar tower currently located behind the Municipal Building.

 

Commission Member Millspaugh asked if the tower would pose a hazard if it should come down.  Mr. Lindley stated that the tower would be located beside a Dumpster and out of the way of traffic.  The tower would also meet all City setback requirements including the condition that the tower could not reach the neighbors if it should collapse.  Mr. Lindley explained that the tower would be self-supporting and could withstand 90 miles per hour winds and a half-inch of ice build-up.  The tower would be erected on a six-foot by six-foot concrete slab. He stated that engineering details were outlined and included in Commission members’ agenda packets.

 

Commission Member Ware asked if the tower would require an emergency power supply, and Commission Member Millspaugh stated that since a letter from the Burlington Airport Authority had requested that lights be included in the tower construction, wouldn’t emergency lights be required.

 

Planning Director Harkrader stated that requirements for emergency lights would be determined by the FAA.

 

Mr. Lindley stated that he had no problem with that requirement and that often there are natural gas resources as back-up in case of loss of power.  He pointed out that conduit will run under the parking lot and there will be no overhead wires.  Mr. Lindley also stated that the tower would protrude 12 feet into air space regulated by the Burlington Airport Authority.

 

Assistant Director of Planning Services Pearson explained that the Board of Adjustment had approved the 12-foot protrusion into that air space and Mr. Dan Danieley, Executive Director of the Airport Authority, had provided a letter stating that the tower height poses no hindrance or safety concerns to airport operations.

 

Commission Member Cobb inquired about the purpose of the tower and if there were others.

 

Mr. Lindley stated that the tower would be for gaining access to the Internet and there are others in the county.

 

Mr. Lindley told Commission members that he had talked to all neighbors except one and that they had no problem with the tower construction.

 

Commission Member Burwell stated that he was concerned that the neighbors on Lee Drive had not seen the rezoning sign and were unaware of plans for the tower.  He was concerned that the tower would decrease the value of existing homes.

 

Commission Member Hargrave asked if staff could foresee establishing guidelines for towers such as this one.

 

Planning Director Harkrader stated that the existing guidelines cover all towers, including both cell and for data communication, and for the time being, there would not be a need to address them separately.  

 

Commission Member Burwell asked where were the rezoning signs placed.

 

Mr. Harkrader stated that the sign was placed on South Church Street on the front of the property.

 

Mr. Burwell stated that he was concerned that the sign wasn’t visible to Gurney Street and Lee Drive residents.  He asked if staff had received any calls regarding the rezoning sign and was told that no calls had been received.

 

Planning Director Harkrader stated that staff recommended approval of the request for rezoning with the use and development conditions submitted by the petitioner and the installation of a red light required by the FAA.  He pointed out that this is not a cell tower and that Burlington will be seeing more and more of this type of tower.  He stated that the proposed tower meets all requirements of the Zoning Ordinance.

 

Commission Member Cobb made a motion to recommend approval of the request for rezoning with the use and development conditions submitted by the petitioner. Greg Hargrave seconded the motion.  The Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the request for rezoning with the following use and development conditions submitted by the petitioner:

 

Use Condition

 

Construction of a telecommunications tower for Internet and data communication and not cell phones.

 

Development Condition

 

It is intended that a single, freestanding metal tower be erected approximately 80 feet in height.  The tower is virtually identical to the tower currently located behind the City of Burlington Municipal Building.

        

The Commission found that the zoning change as requested would not adversely affect the adjoining property and would be in keeping with land use planning in the area.    

 

ITEM NO. 5: Mr. Chris Clayton with Commercial Site Design, PLLC, presented an application to rezone from O-I, Office-Institutional District, to CB, Conditional Business District, to allow construction of a drive-thru fast-food restaurant.  The property is located at 519 South Graham-Hopedale Road on the northeast corner of Oklahoma Avenue as shown on Alamance County Tax Map 138, Block 558, Lots 1 and 6.

 

This was a City item.

 

Mr. Clayton stated that the current property owner and a representative from the Cook-Out restaurant were in attendance.

 

Mr. Clayton described the proposed restaurant and stated that it will include outdoor seating for customers. 

 

He also said that evidently there was miscommunication with the City because staff was under the impression that the company would dedicate a 10-foot right-of-way for the future widening of Graham-Hopedale Road and that the company would not be compensated for the right-of-way.  He stated that notes taken during the Technical Review Committee process indicate that the company would reserve a 10-foot right-of-way but there was no mention of the company dedicating it before commencing construction.

 

Planning Director Harkrader asked Mr. Clayton if he had discussed the right-of-way with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.  Mr. Clayton stated that a 10-foot right-of-way was discussed and that the site plan was modified because of it.

 

Commission Member Burwell asked if the company didn’t want to dedicate the right-of-way, and Mr. Clayton stated that the company did not want to dedicate it up front.

 

Planning Director Harkrader stated that as of last Thursday, staff had the understanding that the right-of-way would be dedicated; however, there was evidently misunderstanding.

 

Commission Member Apple stated that it doesn’t seem right that a property owner should have to dedicate a right-of-way up front.

 

Mr. Harkrader pointed out that this would be a change in land use as well as a trip-generation change. He stated that even though this will be the first commercial development in that block, this would be a good development.  He told the Commission that the company was able to secure an additional adjoining property, Lot 1, which will allow for a better development. He stated that overall, the developers have done everything staff had requested; however, in hindsight, staff should have had it writing about the 10-foot right-of-way dedication. Mr. Harkrader stated he was not privy to the conversations between the developer and NCDOT, but a NCDOT engineer was in attendance at the Technical Review Committee meeting when this proposed development was discussed. He stated that the right-of-way dedication doesn’t present a problem that would prevent the operation of the proposed use and that the development will work without the dedication.  He stated that staff recommended approval of the rezoning.

 

Commission Member Cobb pointed that there was nothing on the developer’s application form saying that they would dedicate a right-of-way.

 

Commission Member Johnson asked if staff needed DOT’s approval of the right-of-way dedication before the Commission votes on the item.  Mr. Harkrader stated that DOT would have to approve entrance designs only.

 

Commission Member Hargrave stated that he understood the developer to mean that a 10-foot right-of-way will be reserved for the future widening of Graham-Hopedale Road.

           

Commission Member Apple asked if the building will have to be moved back because of the reserved right-of-way, and Mr. Clayton stated that the site plan was adjusted to accommodate the reserved right-of-way.

 

Commission Member Cowan stated that she thought the Commission should be more concerned with traffic generated by the new development.

 

Planning Director Harkrader stated that the restaurant would be the first of many commercial developments that are anticipated on Graham-Hopedale Road.

 

Commission Member Johnson asked if staff was comfortable with the way the right-of-way dedication stands at this time, and Mr. Harkrader stated that if DOT is okay with it, staff is, too, and that the developers have done a lot to make this a better project.

 

Commission Member Millspaugh asked if details of the right-of-way dedication should be worked out before sending this item to City Council for final approval, and Mr. Harkrader stated that the Commission should consider what is before them now and not get involved in right-of-way negotiations between the developer and DOT.

 

Commission Chairman Byrd asked if staff had received any calls inquiring about the rezoning sign and was told that no calls had been received.  He stated that the restaurant would be an asset to Burlington.

 

Commission Member Burwell made a motion to recommend approval of the request for rezoning with the use and development conditions submitted by the petitioner. Paul Cobb seconded the motion.  The Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the request for rezoning with the following use and development conditions submitted by the petitioner:

 

Use Condition

 

Construction of a fast-food restaurant with drive-thru facilities.

 

Development Conditions

 

1.   Installation of landscaping per submitted Landscape Plan Sheet prepared by Commercial Site Design, PLLC, including a six-foot high wooden fence and trees to provide screening for residential property abutting the rear of the site.

 

2.   Installation of a site identification sign in the northeastern corner of the site along South Graham-Hopedale Road.  The sign will be 20 feet in height with a maximum area of 100 square feet as shown on the submitted sign elevation detail.

 

3.   Installation of right-in/right-out driveway as shown on the submitted site plan prepared by Commercial Site Design, PLLC, including a four-foot wide concrete median and associated striping.  The plan also shows a full access driveway off Oklahoma Avenue.

 

4.   Installation of a concrete patio for outdoor seating on the north side of the proposed restaurant per the submitted site plan prepared by Commercial Site Design, PLLC.  The plan also shows a shared access driveway for future development to the north.

 

The Commission found that the zoning change as requested would not adversely affect the adjoining property and would be in keeping with land use planning in the area.

 

Note: The Commission at this time considered Item No. 3 (A). See Page 1.

 

Commission Member Cobb stated that he wanted to say a few things before adjournment.

 

Mr. Cobb stated that for several months, he has noticed that few property owners attend the Commission meetings but yet show up at City Council meetings to speak against a rezoning request.  He asked if the Commission had become irrelevant and people just don’t bother to attend the meetings any more.  He questioned if Commission members were just wasting their time and property owners see the Commission as not important.  Mr. Cobb stated that he had spoken to Councilmember Starling, and Mr. Starling said that he would talk to City Manager Harold Owen about his concerns and the possibility of developing a dialogue between Commission and Council members.  Mr. Cobb stated that it seems that some items become totally different when they go to City Council.

 

Commission Secretary Burwell asked if there seemed to be a breakdown between the Commission and Council.

 

Mr. Cobb questioned if Council sees the Commission as not important, and if so, could the Council set guidelines so Commission members could become more involved with the process.  He pointed out that there used to be an overflow of property owners at Planning and Zoning meetings, and now they don’t bother coming to the meetings but show up at Council meetings.

 

Commission Member Ware theorized that there had been a breakdown because of Conditional zoning.   He stated that property owners had probably witnessed the City approve rezoning requests contrary to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan under the premise that the Plan was formulated only as a guideline.  He also theorized that people feel powerless and hope that the value of their property will sustain its value until they can sell their land. Mr. Ware maintained that as a body, the Commission lost it when the City went through months of discussion about land use.

 

Commission Secretary Burwell asked Planning Director Harkrader if he thought it would be a good idea if Commission members put it in writing to City Council about their concerns.

 

Commission Member Apple stated that the Harvest Hills Church rezoning was a good example.  A couple of the neighbors attended the Planning meeting voicing their concerns about the rezoning request; however, many more showed up at the City Council meeting, and the application was denied by Council whereas the Commission recommended approval.  Mr. Apple wondered if changing the rezoning signs would help get surrounding property owners to attend Commission meetings the way letters notify them of City Council meetings.

 

Planning Director Harkrader stated that under the State Statutes, property owners are notified by mail about the public hearings before City Council and the letters galvanize their attention.

 

Commission Member Johnson asked if there was a certain number of days that the letters can be sent out notifying property owners of the public hearings and was told that there is a set number of days.

 

Commission Secretary Burwell asked if staff kept statistics of the number of rezoning requests that were recommended for approval by the Commission and then denied by City Council and was told that no record is kept of such action.

           

Mr. Harkrader assured Commission members that City Council takes their recommendations very seriously and appreciates the time and effort that go into making their decisions.  He pointed out that Commission members at times do not agree with staff’s recommendations on items; however, most of the time the Commission agrees with staff and Council agrees with the Commission. 

 

Mr. Harkrader noted that this is a growing community, and Burlington is facing the largest growth in the county with two million square feet of commercial development and 3,000 housing units approved in an approximate 18-month period.

 

Commission Member Cobb asked if the City should contact surrounding cities such as Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem to find out how their planning boards work together with their councils to handle the growth.

 

Mr. Harkrader stated that these cities also have technical review commissions and boards and handle their rezoning requests similar to the way it’s handled in Burlington.

 

Assistant Director of Planning Services Pearson stated that in most other cities, staff approves final plats thus eliminating approval by planning boards.

 

Commission Member Cobb suggested that Mr. Harkrader discuss with the City Manager the possibility of setting up a joint meeting with Commission members and City Council such as the one held several years ago.

 

Commission Member Hargrave stated that he felt Commission members are doing the best that they can with what they receive.

 

Mr. Harkrader asked if there was anything that staff could do to make Commission members’ efforts easier.

 

Commission Secretary Burwell suggested that staff place rezoning signs in more conspicuous places and maybe more than one sign on the property in order to get the attention of neighbors.

 

Commission Chairman Byrd stated that Burlington is a growing community and with this comes growing pains.  He noted that quite often after a Planning meeting, developers and neighbors have a dialogue and work out their issues before the item goes to City Council.  He agreed that Commission members don’t always agree with staff on rezoning, and he would like to see more visible rezoning signs.

 

Commission Member Cobb stated that he takes his position on the Commission seriously and makes recommendations based on the best interest of the City.  He does want assurances that the Commission is still relevant when it comes to making recommendations for City Council.

 

Planning Director Harkrader stated that he could see where Commission members feel that they have a thankless job; however, they can be assured that they are doing an outstanding job and City Council appreciates their efforts and input.

 

Several of the Commission members stated that they appreciate the help provided by Planning staff.

 

In conclusion, it was decided that Mr. Harkrader would facilitate a joint meeting of City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission members.

 

 

There being no further business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned at 8:15 p.m.

 

 

 

 

                        _____________________________________­___

                               George A. Byrd, Jr., Chairman

 

 

 

 

 

                        ________________________________________

                                James M. Burwell, Secretary