1. Acceptance of Newly Proposed Hickory By Choice 2030 Comprehensive Plan - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 voted unanimously to recommend the acceptance of the newly proposed Hickory By Choice 2030 Comprehensive Plan. Staff recommends acceptance.
a. Approval of Revised City of Hickory’s Land Development Code by Ordinance - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 unanimously voted to recommend approval of the newly revised Land Development Code. The Planning Commission found the Land Development Code to be consistent with the proposed Hickory By Choice 2030. Staff recommends approval.
b. Approval of Revised City of Hickory’s Official Zoning Map by Ordinance - The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 1, 2010 unanimously voted to recommend approval of the newly revised Zoning Map. The Planning Commission found the Zoning Map to be consistent with the proposed Hickory By Choice 2030. Staff recommends approval. These public hearings were advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on January 7 and January 14, 2011.
The History of Hickory by Choice at the Hickory By Choice 2030 Website:
Draft Copies of the document are available on the Planning Department Homepage.
Hickory By Choice Workshop: 5th meeting (2/9/2010 )
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 4th Meeting
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 3rd Meeting - (Unable to attend this meeting)
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 2nd Meeting
Why the original Hickory By Choice doesn't work
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 1st Meeting
Studio Cascade awarded contract at November 4, 2008 City Council meeting
The city's planning director Brian Frazier made the presentation and went over a few of the specifics of Hickory by Choice. Summarizing, Hickory by choice was originally adopted by the City Council in 1999, the revision called Hickory by Choice 2030 provides a long range vision and blueprint for growth and development. There are 10 specific elements included and related to the plan, including history, demographics, public utilities, development, housing, Parks and Recreation, etc. In early 2009, the city contracted with "Studio Cascade" to provide plan consulting services and to assist staff in updating the original Hickory by Choice. In February 2009, City Council appointed a 16 member advisory committee to provide input throughout the process. The advisory committee met over a dozen times throughout the process. Staff held six public workshops. In November 2010, City Council held three public workshops.
Staff also made presentations to various boards, commissions, neighborhood associations, and the Chamber of Commerce. The Hickory Regional Planning commission held public hearings on October 27 and December 1, 2010 and voted unanimously to recommend approval of the plan city Council.
The notable changes in the new document will convert the original plan into a truly comprehensive plan. The plan encompasses the realities of existing demographic and economic conditions. It also reduces the size of the planning area to existing annexation boundaries, reduces the number of mixed-use centers from 16 to less than a dozen, and designates a central business district. The plan also forms revitalization areas in distressed parts of the city that will have special enhanced design standards and provide opportunities to target some of the city's grant programs that foster adaptive reuse of the areas. The plan also changes residential density terminology. The current terminology has caused many problems in the administration of Hickory by Choice and the Land Development Code.
The Land Development Code, which is the legal implementation of Hickory by Choice, was adopted by the City Council in 2001. It has been amended 36 times since its initial adoption.
Notable changes to the Land Development Code include the reduction in the overall size of the document. Mr. Frazier states that the new Land Development Code will be more user-friendly. Additional graphics and illustrations should improve the implementation and interpretation of the document by showing examples, which will reduce ambiguity. One of the goals was to eliminate redundancies and inconsistencies within the document. Another goal was the creation of broad use categories to reduced complexity of land-use table.
Other notable changes are the reduction in the number of base zoning districts, utilization of conditional zoning, simplified and more flexible design standards, less onerous redevelopment standards, creation of different standards for centers versus core doors, and simplified design standards.
The reason for different standards for mixed-use centers versus the corridors is that having the same standards created a dumbbell effect between the centers where you cannot tell the difference between the areas between centers and the centers themselves. There is not a sense of place because of this. A prominent example of this is Highway 127 in Viewmont. They have tried to simplify the signage standards and cut down some of the verbiage and add photos.
Ald. Lail stated that there were some issues related to signage that were discussed at workshops that he thought would be discussed tonight as separate items. Mr. Frazier acknowledged that there were some concerns about signs related and went into details related to this. Many of these details were discussed at the last City Council meeting of January 4, 2011. He stated that these issues were still unresolved and open for debate. These issues are reflected. The recommendations of the Planning Commission are reflected in this Hickory by Choice document that has been presented this evening to the City Council.
Attorney Crone asked if there had been any changes between what the Planning Commission recommended in the document that was being presented. Mr. Frazier answered no. A piece of property in the Kool Park area was changed to reflect a change of land-use for that property. Mr. Crone further asked if this wasn't part of the Planning Commissions recommendation and is Mr. Frazier asking the council to approve the LDC that was approved by the Planning Commission soes it reflect that change. Mr. Frazier stated that the Planning Commission made no recommendation and decided to leave it as it was without an official recommendation and allow the Council to decide.
The Mayor asked if anyone would like to speak against the plan.
In speaking in opposition to the plan, citizen Deb McNeur stated that she was very concerned with what she had heard and read, that there is to be a Southern corridor that takes in HWY 321, Robinson Road, and 13th St. Southwest. Several years ago her neighbor had their property rezoned O and I because they teach music lessons and they had enough students that they had to do that. They were told by the Realtor that they could get big money if he would allow them to sell their property. She stated that when she informed the property owner of how the zoning rules really work, that he changed his mind and did not sell the property and he was really upset about the whole ordeal.
In regards to the whole process. She stated that the Realtor had told her that eventually the zoning would change to commercial in that area and they would be developing it. She stated that she was worried when she saw that 13th St. was on the list of the proposed zoning changes. From what she has gathered, if the property is zoned commercial and the property is not developed for a while, then if something happens structurally to the home, she would not be able to replace the damaged home and she could only get the insurance monies that were available. And if the land were chosen to be developed through eminent domain, then she would only get the property value.Her mother has lived and grown up in the neighborhood her entire life and has lived in the present house for 48 years.
Ms. McNeur said she is also concerned for herself, because of the property that is next door and zoned O and I. Her concern is about when such development takes place, where will they live. They could not take the assessment property value and afford to buy another house. She stated that she and her mother are concerned about what world people really live in. It causes them to have a little bit more understanding about why there aren't enough rooftops for a real grocery store, and why they were losing the pools and gymnasium in that area. They wondered why the neighborhood is being eliminated.
Jimmy Davis came to the podium and said he had one question. In this 2030 plan, where is Ridgeview and where are the plans for Ridgeview, because he is concerned with Ridgeview and the historical Black community.
Larry Pope next addressed the Council and stated that he had similar concerns related to what Ms. McNeur had stated. When property goes from residential to commercial, then he knows what happens to the property because his mother's property in his old home on 3rd Ave Southwest went from residential to commercial. They were told and have learned over the years that if anything had happened to the property that they would not be able to rebuild the house. They have another property behind the house, which used to be a rental property, but because of the amount of work that it was going to take to bring the house up, they had a choice, they could use the house for storage or they can spend thousands of dollars and if anything happened to the house, they could not rebuild the house, because the house had been rezoned commercial.
He knows what Ms. McNeur is saying about her mother, because when they (the City) came in on 12th St., between Grandview Elementary and Wendy's and closed off the road, the plans initially were to redevelop the area commercially. His concern is that you start at 13th and 12th make a commercial area and from there where do you go? You go on down 4th St Southwest and make it all commercial. We are realistic and we know, the Ridgeview community knows that Ridgeview is the only thing that stands between Highway 70 and downtown Hickory. As long as that residential community exists, then the city will never be able to develop Highway 70 SW to downtown Hickory. They have cut roads around us and on both sides. When they did 4th st and Built Hwy 127 along 2nd St. Southeast. Let's not take away from historical communities that want to exist and should exist, because the folks that live in that community are proud of the community. Most of the people that live in this area are senior citizens and don't have the money. And yes they are planning a development over in Green Park, but $120,000 is unaffordable to most of the people in this area.
Mr. Frazier answered the issues that had been brought forth from the people above. He stated that they had been in this process for 23 months and he is somewhat at a loss, because this is the first time he has heard these questions posed and he would be more prepared... He stated that they are looking at having Ridgeview and Claremont neighborhood preservation to help the redevelopment of properties and changing the residential setbacks of properties in Ridgeview. They're looking at changing the setback provisions to get some of the infield lots developed. They are not looking to change properties from residential to commercial in the Ridgeview area. Just by cutting down the Land Development Code and the whole simplification effort does a lot for the people of Ridgeview and any other neighborhood community in dealing with the Land Development Code and has office.
As for the question from Ms. McNeur, he is not really sure about what she is talking about. They have not changed the proposed thoroughfare plan. Councilman Meisner can attest, the vast majority of the thoroughfare plan is not funded in the area. What she is talking about has been in the plan in the original HBC plan from 1999. The city is not looking to do any major rezoning in her area.
Ald. Lail asked about owner-occupied housing. The notion that she would not be able to rebuild as an owner in a commercial district... Mr. Frazier interjected that he did not know where that had come from. His understanding is that if it is an act of God, and it has been less than six months, then you can rebuild The Mayor asked if you can upgrade your residence in one of these areas? Mr. Frazier answered that you can up to a certain percentage in terms of square footage. Dave Leonetti interjected that for single-family residential that you can basically do whatever you want as long... you can tear down your house to build a new house. There is an extra exemption to the nonconformity clause and basically all you need to do is conform to the setbacks of existing zoning laws, which are fairly similar and is fairly easy for most properties.
Ald. Meisner added that he and Ald. Lail are both on the NPO and the thoroughfare project is nowhere near being developed and will not be for 25 or 30 years. There is no plan that is near being funded. After Mr. Frazier reiterated that this is all in the plan, but is not looking to be developed, then Ald. Meisner added that the city is not developing property. This is just a rezoning. Private enterprise may develop, but the city has no plans that they will develop property through eminent domain. Attorney Crone asked if the NPO is a State road and the city has no input into whether it would be developed. Ald. Meisner stated that the city does have input about where they want future roads to go, but you put it on a list and the DOT prioritizes.
Ald. Guess stated that he had two questions. Is there anything in any of these plans that speaks to taking anybody's property. Elderly people sometimes are concerned when they hear about changes and they automatically assume that someone is looking to take their property. Mr. Frazier answered no. The Mayor asked if it was illegal to seize property for eminent domain for economic development purposes. Attorney Crone stated that that is a good question, but the short answer is probably not, but the only time you'll be taking someone's property in this situation is if there is a road expanded. Ald. Guess asked if this property were taken by eminent domain, would it be out of the city's hands and Attorney Crone answered yes.
Mr. Meisner stated that eminent domain by the definition is for the public good. If this were done for a private developer, then it would not be for the public good. The Mayor stated that those sorts of taking of property are usually done with the full acquiescence of... the resident is reimbursed to the point that they are happy with it. Attorney Crone stated that if a property owner is not happy with what is offered for the property, then they can contest the value of the property in court. Ald. Guess stated that it is really a moot point, because the city of Hickory is not involved in any of that. Attorney Crone answered by stating that the City of Hickory has no plans to widen that road any of our lifetimes.
Ald. Patton asked about the concern related to damage to the home and being able to rebuild their property. The Mayor stated that they can rebuild or expand or ... Ald. Lail interjected the code allows for that kind of situation.
Ald. Lail stated that continuing the discussion, he would like to bring up the issue of the signs and it is his belief that the LDC as written now is a little too restrictive. In relation to sign heights and areas in relation to high volume roadway situations, road counts from the WPCOG show that (I assume highway 70) has 46,000 cars per day compared to Interstate 40 that has 50,000 cars per day. A 10 foot sign is not appropriate for those kinds of areas. That sign has got to be larger for vehicles to be able to see and make use of it. And that is the point. He doesn't know how to move forward on that and he would like to propose an amendment to the LDC to change that.
He would like to get it out on the table to see if others on the council have similar concerns. The Mayor interjected that there are standards that you can get access to that talk about heights, letter-size, speed limit, lanes of traffic, distance, and all of the variables. There are charts you can look at, but he has not looked at any of the charts. Ald. Meisner asked if they could not take this one little item and study it further. City Manager Berry pontificated about wondering how you could do that, because you have your existing Land Development Code and proposed new development code. And you are talking about a small section of the code and could you pull out those sections and adopt the code. Without those sections, would it affect the proposed code versus the existing code. Attorney Crone affirmed that you could pull out the sign codes and utilize the existing code, but added he would like to hear from the planning department, because he wondered if this would affect the rest of the plan, because of references there.
Ald. Guess asked if you could approve it and amend it later. Atty. Crone answered absolutely. Ald. Guess asked if that would not be the most logical way to do it is to amend it later. Ald. Patton stated that they had discussions at the workshops about signs, and it has come to this point and she agrees with Ald. Guess that this is one of the issues to bring up later.
Ald. Lail reiterated that he believes the sign code in the document is incorrect in his opinion. He doesn't want to be in the position of voting down the code because of that one particular section. He would propose continuing the public hearing and allowing staff to come back to Council and have the vote on the signage issue. They have had a thorough discussion of this issue at the workshop, but they never took a vote and he believes that it might be a good idea to continue some of these public hearings anyway. On the record, they have heard concerns from one citizen anyway, and he is going to ask the clerk to put this in the public record regarding a piece of property. He would rather handle it that way than to go ahead and push it through today and have the whole discussion over again. Ald. Fox asked if he believed that the signage code was too restrictive. He stated the yes the proposed code is to strict. He believes that for a multi-tenant building 150 sq feet is not enough potentially to advertise the tenets of that building, whatever the case may be. The small businesses, potentially will not be able to be seen by the motoring public in some cases. Alder Meisner stated that he does not want to hold up the Land Development Code. He stated that that might be one of the first things that they look at to amend. Ald. Guess and Ald. Patton reiterated their earlier statements about going ahead and passing the document. Ald. Lail stated that he could not support the LDC with the signage codes that were in their.
Ald. Fox asked about the area in West Hickory that encompasses the residential area bordering 321 and 13th. Is this the whole mash rezoning of that area? Dave Leonetti answered that there are no plans and basically the area will be reassigned as a general business district. The residential district will remain residential and they have added a neighborhood preservation overlay to the district that increases the design standards for all types of development that need to happen in that area. The proposed changes to the zoning of the area should not impact the existing area. Ald. Fox stated that that area has been chopped up by roads and she understands the concern and there is a pocket of solid residential in there and the neighborhood group has been able to work with some of the problems and she wants to make certain that that pocket is still zoned residential. If someone chooses to move, then their house still remains residential. Mr. Leonetti stated that area in the next few years will be part of a revitalization plan and that does not mean that that area will be changed from residential.
Mr. Frazier interjected that they are looking at improving the aesthetic character of both the commercial and residential area and there is no plan for any wholesale changes in that neighborhood. There will also be a preservation overlay in that area that has not existed previously. He also added that he would like to see this move forward. Part of the plan is to look at both Hickory by Choice and the Land Development Code plans on an annual basis. And if something comes up before, or if the Council wants to schedule a workshop, then they can certainly do that inside the year to deal with the specific issues. If you take out assigned portion of the Land Development Code, then it becomes extremely difficult to administer the plan because the zoning districts aren't matching up anymore, because there are fewer of them.
Ald. Lail made a proposal that the hearing on Land Development Code be postponed to the next regular meeting of the Hickory City Council and that as part of the staff presentation that they would look at enlarging the sign sizes and heights to levels that are consistent with where we are now in those commercial areas. The motion was voted down 5 to 1. And the LDC was affirmed by the same margin.
Theresa Huggins next addressed the Council and spoke about a piece of property that belongs to her father-in-law that is located in the southeast section of Hickory, that will be affected by the new map, that is located at 39 10th St. SE. . The property is listed well below the price that he bought it for. There have been many people that have been interested in the property, but they have not been able to secure a commercial loan. This process has been going on for a very long time, but until they got a call from another broker interested in the property they did not know that the property was affected by the new maps. This will be changed to a residential property, and in essence, the property that is currently leased will be grandfathered in, but if it is sold, then it will not be allowed to be used as a business, which greatly impacts the value of the property.
The current tenant will be vacating the property in March and that means that any business will not be able to use the property, which greatly impacts the value of the property in a negative manner. Once the building is vacated in March, unless another auto mechanic or something very closely related one comes in and buy the building, then the building is rendered useless. The people on the council are business savvy and have investment properties... she doesn't believe that anyone can argue the negative impact on this property. What happens when no auto mechanic comes forward for this property? Then you have yet another commercial building that is vacant. That is prone to all kinds of activities that can take place, because people know the building is empty. What she is proposing is they leave the current industrial zoning on this building, because they are anticipating two offers on the property this week... And to allow it to exist in its essence, an industrial building and not add to the vacant building issues that we have faced.
Lynn Huggins next addressed the Council about her father Henry Huggins. At present, her father is 89 years old and has cancer. This is his primary source of income. She is at the City Council meeting, representing her father and asking them to reconsider the zoning or delay their decision. They have two potential buyers at this time, and this could devastate that deal.
Ald. Meisner asked Theresa Huggins about the two potential uses and whether they had been cleared with the planning department as to whether they could be used under the existing code as it is being used now? Under existing zoning both offers would operate fine. According to the realtors that she has spoken to.
A map was shown of where the building was located. The building is currently zoned industrial, and is located next to a residential area. The building is currently utilized as an auto mechanic shop. One of the potential clients is looking to continue as an auto mechanic shop, but also include wholesale and retail auto sales. This is not permitted in the industrial zone. Auto repair is fine, but sales are not permitted today. This is the largest property in the area and the residential properties are also designated as industrial. What they have looked at is why the property was ever zoned industrial, because there are houses located in the area. The property would be grandfathered under its current zoning. If there is a six months, where the property is abandoned, then they are looking at the residential zoning.
Ald. Meisner asked if this was a residence? The question was answered that no it is not a residence that it is a nice industrial building. Ald. Meisner stated that he could not understand why they would take an industrial building and zone it residential. The Mayor stated that he did not see how that would negatively impact anyone's property rights by continuing to zone it industrial. It was decided to amend the proposed code to be industrial. This would not be spot zoning, because there are other industrial properties that are attached to it. Plastic Packaging is located just to the west of the property. Anyone buying or selling there would know that the property is there.
The Council consented unanimously to approving the zoning map with amendments, including the Propst property, the Cloninger Mill property, and the Huggins property.
The Hound would like to congratulate Brian Frazier and the planning department for seeing this process through to its culmination. I think that Mr. Frazier has done an excellent job in communicating with the public in relation to this plan. I participated in many of the workshops that were held and can attest to the fact that Mr. Frazier, the Planning Department, and Studio Cascade were very much interested in seeing public participation in this project.
I do believe that the challenge of these documents will not be how they are written, but how they are implemented. I cannot argue with what Ald. Lail had to say in relation to signage. We have seen this issue come up time and time again in many areas throughout the State and across the nation. It relates to those interested only in some sort of aesthetic paradise, where they would wish to pretend that no businesses existed versus those who see nothing wrong with the Las Vegas strip. There has to be some sort of common sense compromise on this issue. Like I stated about this issue in my comments from the last City Council meeting, I don't see the harm of LED signage. So where do you come to a compromise on this issue.
Another issue that I witnessed at this meeting was the concerns of the people that live in the less privileged areas of this community and how this plan will impact them. I think that Mr. Frazier , successfully answered those questions, but I also understand where those concerns come from. Those issues come from the fact that the people that live in those areas usually don't get a seat at the table in the decision-making process. But, I will tell you that in attending at least five of these meetings that were held over the last two years, I did not see many people in attendance from the Ridgeview or West Hickory community. In my opinion, you have to take the available opportunities to speak about your concerns in order for those concerns to be addressed.
That does not mean that I believe that people from the more prosperous sections of our community should be imposing their will on the other sections of the community. I think that everyone in Hickory needs to get together and work together towards fixing the problems that we face. We don't need to draw the lines and fight with each other based upon some mindless ideology. We need to help our neighbor, because when you do that you empower yourself by creating a community with a stronger and firmer foundation.
I would like to finish these comments by giving my endorsement to Brian Frazier and the planning department. It's easy for anyone to see that these guys are completely dedicated to their job. I think they want to make things work around here. Their are always going to be times when people will be at loggerheads with the planning department, because they are in charge of enforcing policy.
This isn't a perfect world and if you look around you'll see that Hickory was put together piecemeal. Sometimes you have to take the square peg and force it into that round hole. In speaking with Mr. Frazier and seeing how he operates, I honestly believe that he will work with you. I also don't believe that Hickory can afford to lose. Mr. Frazier, because I can see that he does have vision and he is aspiring to excellence. We look at the Brownfield projects and his ideas related to revitalization. He gets it and I wish more people in this community got it. So if you get the chance and have the opportunity to work towards a project that will enhance our community, then you should work with Mr. Frazier, because I believe that that is the exact objective that he is focused on -- Enhancing Hickory.
Old Land Use map
New Zoning map
Future Land Use map