County Considers Land Use Changes To Control Growth

For years, Johnston County Commissioners have been searching for ways to manage explosive growth in northern and western sections of the county.  Farms are being turned into subdivisions, once rural two-lane roads are now congested with traffic, and infrastructure for necessities like water and sewer haven’t been able to catch up.

During Monday night’s meeting of the County Board of Commissioners, Planning Director Braston Newton unveiled four proposed changes to Development Ordinances that are designed to help control some of the rapid growth. The changes were announced following a series of meetings in January involving planning officials, county commissioners, and county manager Rick Hester.

Under the first plan, multifamily units would be reduced from 15 to 8 per acre. Under current zoning regulations up to 15 units per acre are permitted but under the change the density would be reduced to 8 units, plus a 70 foot building setback from arterial and collector roads, along with new landscape buffer requirements.

A second proposal would eliminate an ordinance allowing two family dwellings like a duplex at densities greater than 1.5 units per acre as a special use.

Third, mobile home parks are currently permitted at either 3 or 4 units per acre. Under the proposed rule change the number would be reduced to 1.5 mobile home per acre, specific for mobile home parks only.

The fourth proposal would increase the open space fee developers pay. The current fee is $400 per lot. The proposed fee would double to $800 per lot.

Six other proposals were considered by planning officials and commissioners but not included in the current proposed changes.  They include:

  • Adjusting the density for Housing Planned Developments. Currently 1.5 units per area based on gross land. It would have been adjust to exclude unusable land in determining density such as floodplains, right of ways, wetlands and riparian buffers.
  • Add environmentally sensitive and natural areas to be required as part of open space which already includes wetlands and riparian buffers.
  • Require left turn lanes for subdivisions based on a particular number of lots, built to NC DOT Standards.
  • Require that a soils report be submitted with the subdivision application. Environmental Health does not support this modification as it will be perceived by the development community as a supplant of its required evaluation/analysis of soil conditions in consideration for permitting an on-site septic system.
  • Allow a certain amount of offsite septic within open space to allow for grouping of septic tanks and allow for smaller lots.
  • Add setback requirements for new dwellings and structures within major subdivisions with regard to swine operations. For example, no residential lots would be created within 750 feet of any active swine farm building or pond or 150 feet from any permitted field used for spraying of liquid waste. If a lot lies partially within the 750 feet boundary, it must be clearly marked on a plat map but no dwelling or outbuilding could be constructed within the area.

A public hearing on the four proposed land use ordinance changes will be held before the Johnston County Planning Board in February and before County Commissioners in March.  Commissioners could adopt the rule changes after the hearings take place.