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Council instructs staff to work on amending future land use map


By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Public outcry against a rezoning request adjacent to East Carolina University’s campus prompted City Council to direct staff to reexamine the city’s future Land Use and Character Map.

On Thursday night, the council held a public hearing for a request by Jeffrey Daniels and Timothy McCarthy to rezone 0.2 acres located along East Sixth Street near ECU’s main campus.

The request, if approved, would have changed the zoning to office residential, allowing for a variety of additional uses, including a rental duplex or parking lot.

However after a discussion between the council and Mike Baldwin, who represented Daniels and McCarthy, Baldwin withdrew the request, saying that he believed a different zoning would be more appropriate. He assured residents and council that the intention was to build a duplex, not a parking lot.

“There’s two words I wish we could take out of the dictionary tonight: parking lot,” he said.

He told council members he felt stuck because Tar River Neighborhood (TRUNA) members were against the project due to the possibility of a parking lot in OR zoning, but choosing a different zoning would go against the future land use map. He noted that neighbors also may be against plans for a duplex. 

Baldwin withdrew the request and told council he intends to request either a different rezoning or a amendment to the future land use plan.

TRUNA members spoke at the public hearing on the matter, saying they, too, were irritated by the future land use map because of an anomaly in the map that planned for six lots adjacent to campus to eventually become part of ECU’s campus.

The lots were marked for university-institutional zoning, creating a small, purple bump on the otherwise uniform line dividing the university from the brown traditional neighborhood on the color-coded map.

“Nothing has changed in our neighborhood since 1999,” said Anne Maxwell, a nearby neighbor and TRUNA member. “And yet suddenly we have this little blurb carved out in our neighborhood. I think it is a mistake, I think it was just something that happened, and I think it is wrong to keep propping this up and prepending that this map is good.”

Council members agreed that the anomaly was likely inappropriate and voted unanimously for staff to begin researching the amending the plan.

Mayor P.J. Connelly suggested that staff should set up a stakeholders meeting before making any formal amendments in order for staff to receive input from land owners, including the university.

“My thoughts are it’s been 50 years and this neighborhood has been residential this entire time,” said District 3 Councilman Will Bell, who originally made the motion. “With this little notch in here, I think it’s our chance to stop this right now.”

District 5 Councilman Will Litchfield agreed with Bell and noted that the zoning was a clear example of error in the future land use map. He noted that it was important for the public to notice that the plan is not always perfect, and urged residents to recognize that there is good reason the council votes against the plan’s suggestions on occasion.

“As we continue to move forward as a council, the public needs to know there are reasons why we do rezonings,” he said. “Just because it is not in compliance with the plan doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense — just like in this particular case. It’s my hope tonight that the folks that are here realize also there will be rezonings in the future, months from now, years from now, that are not in compliance but for some reason they make sense.”

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 252-329-9579.