by Tom Glendinning
Pittsboro, NC – Zoning does dictate how land will be used, unless the applicant can spend much time and money to change the zoning on his/her/its parcel. Once designated, it is set until changed.
In the unzoned portion of the county, there are already protections in place without zoning. Commercial and industrial uses must apply for their permit(s) without zoning. We have mobile home, lighting, appearance, watershed, flood damage protection, communication tower, junk yard, hazardous & radioactive waste, stormwater and soil & sedimentation ordinances throughout. Plus, a subdivision must make application and receive permits before building.
In other words, we are far from the “lawless west” portrayed by liberals who wish to control the whole county. Although we are unique in having the only North Carolina county divided by zoned and unzoned areas, we do not suffer from rapid urbanization. Given the economic faltering of the last seven years, development will not be paving the county anytime soon.
If you believe that this issue addresses protection of property rights, look closely at buffers and riparian buffers. Chatham returned to state setbacks under the previous commissioners. However, someone in Washington feels that these setbacks are so important that a new EPA rule is being established. In other words, your property rights are being taken in feet and acres. If one definition is used, “ephemeral streams,” our driveway ditches become property of the federal government. At one time, they were governed by the county. I hope someone is watching this locally.
Just a word of caution. Because it is happening three states away does not mean that you are overlooked. Because your local and state governments are not calling for rallies around Silent Sam does not mean your rights are being observed or protected. There are those who want to control everything you won and do, regardless of how “nice” and “reasonable” they may appear.
One technical issue on zoning of farmland, designating areas zoned for agriculture: Once the land is zoned, the permit process must be used to change it. Further, if a parcel is bought for farming and is zoned residential, commercial, industrial, highway setback, it must be rezoned for farming. Zoning does not account for the fluid transfer and use of land we normally experience in a free market system. Turning a blind eye to allow a lower level usage is not a viable long term technique of governance.
Government rules and regulations only become more extensive and pervasive. County development and zoning manual circa 1980 – about 70 pages. Present county planning board manual – 1130 pages plus. Has anyone read them? Has anyone but staff and planning board members reviewed them this year?
Word to the wise – leave well enough alone.