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What’s in a name? A lot, in Orange
BY DAN McFARLAND
When Orange County planning commissioners scheduled a public comment period at Thursday’s meeting, they were hoping to hear what the public thought about technical changes proposed to the county comprehensive plan, zoning and subdivision ordinances.
What they got instead was criticism of new labels for various land-use categories.
The proposal to change one land-use designation from agricultural to neighborhood residential drew the most fire from those attending. One speaker after another blasted the new nomenclature.
Dan Holmes of the Piedmont Environmental Council said, “The term neighborhood residential, in and of itself, implies suburban development, one of the most costly types of development for a locality.”
John Bangs of Monrovia Road added, “It looks to me like we are out to change the basic characteristics of the county, going from what is an agricultural-based county, and take one of the largest land-use definitions we have, agricultural, and make it neighborhood residential. That makes no sense to me.”
Jack Snyder of Chicken Mountain Road added, “Neighborhood residential sounds like urban sprawl to me.”
Commissioner Donald Brooks attempted to explain that the designations were intended to represent what is actually going on in those areas. “We say we are really agricultural in a lot of areas. The area where I live is zoned agricultural. But if you come down Everona Road, it is not agricultural, it is residential. It’s people living in houses off the road, on the road.”
Several speakers pointed out that agriculture is the county’s largest industry.
Commissioner George Yancey commented, “Agriculture is a very excellent industry, but whether it is sustainable is questionable.”
He pointed out that the most recent census figures showed most farmers were not working full time at farming, but working at other jobs off the farm to support and feed their families.
Asked by Commission Chairman Nigel Goodwin for suggestions on better ideas on the new comprehensive plan and ordinances, most speakers declined to offer any.
Commissioner J.P. Tucker summed up the feelings of most of the commission. “I had no idea that the term neighborhood residential was going to fire these people up,” he said. “It didn’t mean urban development to me. I think we are making it way too complicated.”
In light of the recent court decision declaring the time-phased limits of the county subdivision ordinance void and unenforceable, the commissioners agreed to wait for further guidance from the Board of Supervisors before attempting further modification of that ordinance, as well as of the comprehensive plan.