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Council approves zoning ordinance

After months of meetings and compromise, Lincolnton’s unified development ordinance was approved by the City Council last week.
“I’m pleased. We did some very positive compromising,” said Steve Gurley, the city’s planning director. “It was a give and take opportunity, and I feel good about the product.”
The UDO, a combination of the city’s zoning and subdivision ordinance, was sent back to the planning board in early August after opposition during a public hearing.
That led officials to plan other meetings to gain more input on the proposed document.
Among the UDO’s most contested aspects was a requirement that new commercial buildings larger than 5,000 square feet include two residential units.
That requirement was removed following the extra meetings, but the council has made it easier for people wanting to put apartments in downtown businesses. The use is now permitted instead of conditional. That means if plans comply with the city’s codes and policies, property owners won’t have to go before the planning board and City Council to gain approval.
Changes were also made regarding standards for new structures larger than 60,000 square feet, commonly called “big box” buildings.
Initial recommendations had given the city the authority to use proceeds from demolition bonds to demolish vacant structures after two years. That time frame was changed to three years, Gurley said.
More parking will be allowed in the front of the building. Staff changed that standard from 25 percent to 40 percent, said Gurley. But going along with the original ordinance, outside storage won’t be allowed for big boxes.
During the City Council’s meeting Oct. 7, resident Christine Poinsette said she was disappointed some aspects of the city’s land use plan were not included in the UDO.
James Powell, another resident, said the public didn’t have enough time to consider and comment on the proposed UDO and its changes. He pointed to the process taken to form the land use plan, which included a number of public meetings.
But Councilmen Les Cloninger said the meetings held on the UDO offered residents the chance to give input.
“I was highly impressed with the effort citizens made to try to improve (the document),” he said. “It was about the best example of seeing citizens work for the good of Lincolnton.”
And councilmen Fred Houser reminded the public that officials can always take another look at the document if an issue arises.
The Lincolnton City Council’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 4.by Alice Smith

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