The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday November 29th

Orange County Commissioners discuss ways to implement Unified Development Ordinance

The Orange County Board of Commissioners discussed the most efficient ways to carry out a recently adopted development ordinance, emphasizing the importance of preventing delays at the board’s Tuesday meeting.

The Unified Development Ordinance, adopted April 5, includes reformatting existing county ordinances regarding zoning and property development.

The ordinance combines several existing ordinances regarding growth and development.

Craig Benedict, planning director for Orange County, said moving forward with the next phase of the project immediately is a top priority after the initial 19-month adoption process.

Now that the first phase of the plan — developing and adopting it — has been completed, commissioners are discussing the second phase, which focuses on water and sewage ordinances.

“Within 12 hours of the adoption, I was meeting with the chair and vice chair (of the Planning and Inspections Department) about phase two,” Benedict said. “In this phase we are going to look at different aspects of how to move forward.”

Benedict identified three critical elements of the development process — the location of the land used, design standards and approval processes — to further the commissioners’ commitment to the goal of economic development.

“We can have a great location and easy standards, but then it may take 15 months to get something done, and you lost all of the work you did in the first couple of phases,” he said. “I would want to work with the economic development office … to achieve what we want to do.”

Commissioner Vice Chairman Steve Yuhasz said that the quicker the second phase is finished, the quicker the county will see it helping economic development.

“We have made a commitment with proposing the quarter-cent sales tax — we are making a commitment to the public that we are going to have effective economic development efforts,” he said.

Commissioner Alice Gordon said the ordinance should be easier for the public to understand. Unclear communication caused delays in the initial phase of the project.

She also said residents with objections did not voice them until nearly the end of the process, slowing it down.

“A certain amount of time needs to be spent on coming up with the final proposal sooner, instead of having public hearing processes that not a lot of people come out to,” she said.

“This way, if significant questions come up, you will have time to deal with it without completely ruining your time schedule.”

Commissioner Barry Jacobs said phase two of the plan must cooperate with the county’s existing land-use plan and develop those areas that have been deemed appropriate.

Benedict said he was ready to take on these challenges and move forward with the project.

“I look forward to the new era of phase two,” he said.

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