Thursday, February 29, 2024

Pender County planners mull coastal re-zonings and heightened floodplains regulations

During Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting, county planners will discuss a variety of land use plans including a new Coastal Residential zoning district, increased floodplain regulations, and even the development of use standards for small brewing operations.

Flooding at the intersection of Borough Spur and Alexis Hales roads near the Black River in Currie, North Carolina, Wednesday, September 19, 2018. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)
Flooding at the intersection of Borough Spur and Alexis Hales roads near the Black River in Currie, five days after Hurricane Florence made landfall. Homes in this particular neighborhood are among 37 percent of the county’s housing units that fall within the county’s 100-year floodplain. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

BURGAW — Pender County planning staff is preparing to discuss key zoning map amendments, new zoning districts, and development regulations in front of the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Topics on the agenda include the establishment of a new Coastal Residential zoning district in areas along U.S. 17 and in the vicinity of the Intracoastal Waterway and its various tidal creeks, as well as increased development regulations for areas within the county’s floodplains.

As part of the county’s long-term project to adapt land ordinances to its Pender 2.0 Comprehensive Land Use Plan — a “roadmap for growth” adopted in August 2018 after two years of research and public discussions — the county’s planning board is preparing an assessment report describing updates to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).

Potential new rules

The new or modified land rules on the table are ones the planning staff “feel can make a significant difference as soon as they are approved and enforceable,” according to Planning Director Kyle Breuer, who heads the project’s steering committee.

One rule includes a Coastal Residential future land use classification for areas within a half-mile of the Intracoastal Waterway and nearby tidal creeks that will encourage residential density less than three units per acre, according to the upcoming board meeting’s agenda. The classification would emphasize environmental conservation and preservation, including stormwater controls, low impact development, clustering of residential development, habitat connectivity, and permanent open space preservation.

In addition to baseline efforts to protect the coastal environment, it would also provide incentives for developers “to go above and beyond the baseline requirements,” according to the agenda item.

Another discussion on the docket comes in response to Hurricanes Matthew and Florence that involve regulating the 500-year floodplain in the same way as the 100-year floodplain is regulated, limiting or eliminating residential subdivisions in the floodplain, and providing incentives for permanent open space preservation within floodplains.

According to the Pender 2.0 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, approximately 37 percent of the county’s housing units lie within the 100-year floodplain, which is defined as land that is subject to a one percent chance of flooding in any given year. The document shows that 794 housing units (making up 2.6 percent of the county) lie within the 500-year floodplain.

It goes on to project an increase of Special Flood Hazard Areas — or land within the 100-year floodplain — along the coastal areas and creeks adjoining the Intracoastal Waterway.

“Low lying areas throughout the inland portion which are not currently in Special Flood Hazard Areas are projected to see an increase in the extent in which they cover,” the land use plan document said.

Other issues

Another topic of discussion during Tuesday’s meeting will involve returning certain parcels of land — including rural land east of Burgaw and west of the Northeast Cape Fear River — to a Rural Agriculture zoning district “in an effort to better reflect existing and future land uses in these areas,” according the the agenda item. Such areas of land are currently classified as General Business zoning districts.

Additional topics will include sewage lift stations (utilizing a tiered system for utilities based on a use’s intensity and impact), proposals to more clearly address model homes as part of the residential development process, standards for Wholesale Trade operations with the General Business zoning district, and the development of use standards for small brewing operations.

Mark Darrough can be reached at

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