August 17, 2008
Plan Would Streamline Review of Projects
By JEFF HAMPTON
By Jeff Hampton
A proposal for a new streamlined permitting process, along with improved staff cooperation, could get developments approved more quickly in Currituck County, which has had a reputation as a tough place to do business.
Currituck County plans to simplify the project review process, including a reduction from four public meetings to two. Also, county staff could handle more of the administrative work that developers do now, said Ben Woody, director of the Currituck County planning department.
But efficiency will not mean less oversight, Woody said. "I think we can shorten the process without losing any quality of review," he said.
Developers have long complained how difficult it is to get projects approved. A recent survey, conducted by the planning department, showed developers wanted a shorter approval time, better communication with the staff and a more lenient interpretation of the county's unified development ordinance, among other things.
Now, development plans must pass through the planning staff and the planning board at least three times in public meetings and in a fourth meeting with the Board of Commissioners.
Under the new approval process, the planning board and the commissioners would review a development once each. Public hearings would be reduced to two from four.
A new set of commissioners elected in 2006 have already eased rezoning constraints. In the past two years, 2,130 acres have been rezoned from agriculture to either residential or commercial.
The staff is more helpful and efficient now, said Eric Avery, owner of BD&A Realty and Construction.
"We've seen a major changeover," Avery said. "Currituck is more pro-development now and right now the county needs jobs."
Avery has been trying to get permits for Corolla Bay for six years, he said. But a more recent project on the mainland with 90 living units is going through much more quickly and smoothly, he said.
But Currituck should keep the review process difficult to control quality, said Moyock-based developer Jerry Old.
"Yeah, it's aggravating," Old said. "But it should be."
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, commissioners faced unprecedented growth while classrooms filled and farms became subdivisions.
Currituck was the first county in the state to approve an adequate facilities ordinance that allowed officials to refuse a development if services such as schools and water supply were insufficient.
The planning staff interpreted development ordinances more strictly and often slowed development. Currituck gained a reputation as one of the most difficult places in the region to get a project approved.
The survey and a draft development review manual are available on the county's Web site at http://co.currituck.nc.us. No date has been set for the Board of Commissioners to pass a resolution accepting the new review manual.
Jeff Hampton, (252) 338-0159,
Originally published by BY JEFF HAMPTON.
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