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UDO review invited

A new ordinance designed to streamline the city’s processes regarding new development will be available for public review during two open houses in July.
The proposed Unified Development Ordinance combines the city’s zoning and subdivision ordinances and implements elements of the new Land Use Plan adopted in 2003.
“The UDO will help us carry out goals and objectives established in the plan,” said Steve Gurley, the city’s planning director.
The public is invited to review the plan and ask staff members questions during open houses on July 13 and 15. The informal meetings will be on a drop-by basis from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the city’s planning department, 128 Motz Ave.
Several major changes in city policy are incorporated in the UDO, including requiring new downtown commercial development to include residential elements and more stringent standards for “big box” stores.
The residential requirement means anyone building new commercial construction with a gross floor area of 5,000 square feet or greater will have to include at least two residential dwelling units per development.
The requirement will allow for a wider range of potential uses downtown, Gurley said. The idea complements a recent push for upstairs apartments by downtown supporters.
“A lot of downtowns, like Salisbury and Morganton, have worked with residential (aspects) for years,” Gurley said. “It has had a definite impact on the vitality of downtowns.”
The UDO will also put new rules in effect for new retail stores larger than 60,000 square feet, also known as “big box” stores. The standards will also apply to expansion of existing facilities that increase in size by 50 percent or more and with such expansion being in excess of 60,000 square feet.
The plan will set forth requirements regarding reuse, compartmentalization and demolition, as well demolition bonds. It aims to make sure “big box” stores that close down can be reused in other ways.
Residents will also see changes in enforcement and penalties for those who violate the ordinance.
City staff members will now begin issuing civil penalties after 10 days instead of 30. Citations will increase from $25 to $100 for the first violation; from $50 to $250 for the second; and from $50 to $500 for each day after that.
“For folks that violate our regulations, the enforcement penalties we have will be greater than what they are under the existing ordinance,” Gurley said.
Other changes involve sidewalks, parking and open space.
The city Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend that City Council approve the UDO. A public hearing will be held during council’s August meeting.
Gurley encourages anyone with questions about the plan to attend one of the open houses. by Alice Smith

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