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City to change zoning rules

The city of Lincolnton is considering combining its zoning and subdivision ordinances, and that could mean several major changes for new development.
The proposed Unified Development Ordinance comes as a result of the city’s revised land use plan that was adopted in 2003. Because of the revisions, the city now needs to update the zoning and subdivision ordinances to carry out strategies listed in the land use plan, staff members said.
City planning staff members presented the UDO to the City Council and Planning Board during a joint work session last week.
The Planning Board will consider the UDO at its next meeting. A public hearing will then be set.
The UDO incorporates nine major changes.
· One of the biggest changes involves a new residential aspect of business development. If approved, anyone building a commercial structure that is 5,000 square feet or larger in the Central Business and Central Business Transitional districts would be required to have at least two residential dwelling units somewhere in the building.
· All accessory buildings like storage buildings and detached garages would have to be at least 10 feet from rear property lines. Those structures can currently be five feet away.The 10-foot recommendation comes as part of a requirement in the subdivision ordinance that a 10-foot wide utility/drainage easement exist on all side and rear property lines.
· Another change affects new retail stores 60,000 square feet or larger, sometimes called “big box” stores, like Wal-Mart and Lowes. The standards would also be applied to existing facilities that are expanded by 50 percent or more bringing total size to more than 60,000 square feet. “Big box” stores would have to include certain elements so that if they were closed, they could be re-used by multiple tenants. Demolition bonds would also have to be secured, and a number of development standards followed.
· Non-residential developments would not be required to provide a certain number of off-street parking spaces. The City Council, however, would have the authority to set a number as part of a conditional use permit.
· Enforcement and penalties will also change. Staff members currently have 30 days to begin issuing civil penalties against a violator of the ordinance. That time would be changed to 10 days. Citations increase from $25 to $100 for the first violation, from $50 to $250 for the second violation, and from $50 to $500 each day for the third and subsequent violations.
Other major changes involve street connectivity requirements, sidewalks, street trees and open space.
Steve Gurley, the city’s planning director, said some of the proposed changes will have a significant impact on some types of future development, especially those dealing with “big box” stores and residential presence in commercial structures. But, he said, the UDO is based on the “sound ideas” put together in the land use plan.
“All of the changes proposed, in the long run, will positively impact the livability of Lincolnton and enhance the beauty of our historic town,” Gurley said.
After the Planning Board makes its recommendation and a public hearing is held, the City Council will vote on whether to adopt the UDO.by Alice Smith

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