on May 1, 2008 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

‘Defining’ moments

“At this time, I know of no municipality that is as restrictive as we currently are involving townhouses, apartments and condos.”

Planning Commission Chair Jim Smith

PENDLETON — On May 15, the Pendleton Planning Commission will continue to consider a key town zoning definition: “family.”

Planning Commission Chair Jim Smith believes the town’s current definition to be “antiquated and insufficient.”

“In my judgment, the most protected and restricted zones should be R-1, R-2 and PD-R — where traditional families with children and many senior citizens reside and deserve and should expect as much peace and quiet as possible,” Smith said

On April 17, the planning commission passed the first reading of a recommendation for a new definition. The provision would allow for a maximum of three unrelated cohabitants in all residential and mixed uses zones except R-1, R-2 and PD-R. Those zones would maintain a maximum of two unrelated cohabitants.

“We are only trying to go from two to three unrelated persons in paragraph C of our proposed definition,” Smith said. “At this time, I know of no municipality that is as restrictive as we currently are involving townhouses, apartments and condos.”

Currently, Ordinance 205.39, Paragraph C of the Pendleton definition states a family should be defined as: “No more than two unrelated persons living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit.”

On May 15, in addition to a second vote on the recommended change, the planning commission will also hold a public hearing regarding the definition.

Because it is a key issue at Village at Town Creek — the development once known as Pendleton Station — the “family” definition has received added hype. But Smith said the decision must work long-term as well.

“I believe a few of our citizens, when thinking about this issue, are only thinking about one development and not about the entire town and all its citizens in the years to come,” Smith said. “We want to help improve the quality of life for the people who live in R-1, R-2 and PD-R by reducing the number of unrelated persons living there and at the same, join the 21st century in allowing no more than three unrelated persons, from two currently, and any children, etcetera related to them, living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit. This section is applicable to all residential and mixed zones except R-1, R-2 and PD-R.”

Whatever definition Pendleton ends up with, enforcement of the regulation will be another issue.

“Of course ordinances, not enforced, are quite often not very effective,” Smith said.

Members of the planning commission put in some serious time. For example, the group’s April 17 meeting lasted four hours. Then there are the work sessions, the next is scheduled for May 22 — and other responsibilities.

Smith lauded the dedication of his fellow commission members: Lou Robinson, Joe Pearson, Phillip Morgan, Ben “Coke” Jeffords, Dave Williford and Karen Wiley.

“I sincerely appreciate the time and thought they put into the process,” Smith said. “We are all volunteers and try to do the best we can.”

The commission works on a continuous stream of issues and ordinances. However, their principal collaborator is about to depart. Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG) Senior Planner Aliza Tourkow has provided the commission with counsel since June 2007. However, with Pendleton’s contract with the council of governments ending on June 30, the town is searching for a full-time planner.

As off last week, Pendleton Town Administrator Teri Sloan had narrowed the field down to three candidates. According to Smith, Tourkow will be a hard act to follow. He hopes that when Pendleton hires an in-house planner, there will be overlap before Tourkow’s departure so she could brief the hire on town planning scenarios.

“Aliza Tourkow has been a tremendous asset to our planning commission,” Smith said. “She is knowledgeable, efficient and works very hard.”

That being said, Smith sees the benefit of a permanent planner.

“A full-time town planner would provide continuity on a daily basis and that could be a good thing,” Smith said.