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Commissioners to discuss UDO amendments, courthouse study

MATT CHAPMAN
Staff Writer

The Lincoln County Board of commissioners will meet tonight to discuss a contract with a firm that will evaluate the potential future of the courthouse in downtown Lincolnton.

The contract with Moseley Architects is related to professional architectural and engineering services necessary for conducting a space need analysis and feasibility study of the courthouse in downtown Lincolnton. The contract comes at a cost of $153,000 to the county, which has been included in this year’s budget.

As it stands currently, the courthouse faces a number of issues resulting from a lack of space inside and surrounding the building. The courtrooms and administrative offices are in dire need of additional space to accommodate the growth of the county and functionality and security are compromised by the current interior configuration, according to information posted on the county website. The building is not fully handicap-accessible and limited parking creates traffic congestion around Court Square at certain times of day.

The county is searching for the most viable option to renovate the courthouse or, if that’s not feasible, construct a new courthouse fit for all court functions and administrative offices.

The county will also meet jointly with the planning board to discuss amendments to the county’s unified development ordinance.

Two of the proposed amendments are a direct result of new state laws, meaning that county officials will have no choice but to comply by adopting the required changes in the local unified development ordinance.

The first state law requires that a governing board, in approving a zoning amendment that is inconsistent with an adopted comprehensive plan such as the Lincoln County Land Use Plan, to adopt a statement declaring that the approval is also deemed an immediate amendment to the plan that has been modified. The new state law is the result of a regulatory reform bill signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper this summer that will take effect on Oct. 1.

The second amendment will put the county in compliance with another new state law that exempts certain divisions of land from local subdivision standards and establishes a new category of subdivisions that qualify for expedited review.

The division of land to settle an estate will now be exempt from local subdivision regulations, according to Session Law 2017-10, which Cooper signed into law in May. The law also states that a parcel of land that is under single ownership and greater than five acres will be allowed an expedited review process requiring only final plat review as long as no more than three lots result from the division of the land. The proposed amendment would also exempt those same subdivided parcels from the minimum road construction standards.

The third and final proposed amendment would add community facilities such as churches and schools as projects that are eligible for a special nonresidential intensity allocation (SNIA) under the 10/70 option in water-supply watershed districts. For nonresidential projects, the watershed regulations limit the built-upon area to a certain percentage of the total acreage of the site unless an SNIA is approved.

Under the 10/70 option, 10 percent of the acreage in a watershed district may be developed with new projects that have up to 70 percent built-upon area. To date, a total of 12 projects have been approved under the 10/70 option, according to Lincoln County zoning administrator Randy Hawkins.

The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners will meet today at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of the James W. Warren Citizens Center, located at 115 West Main Street in Lincolnton.

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