Local officials offer zoning

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
Like it or not, zoning will be on the Carter County Commission agenda on Monday.
Commissioners and other local officials have been holding public forums to educate residents from their respective districts about zoning and hear opinions on the issue. In an exclusive interview with this Star reporter, Planning Director Chris Schuettler discussed commonly asked questions and areas of confusion.
Q.: What is zoning and its purpose?
A.: "Zoning is the division of the land within the county or city into land use zones or districts. The purpose of zoning is to promote the public health, safety, morals or the general welfare; prevent the overcrowding of land to avoid undue concentration of the population and to facilitate adequate provision of transportation, water, sewage, schools, parks and other public requirements in accordance with a comprehensive plan."
Q: What does zoning do?
A: "Zoning protects private property; stimulates economic investment; encourages efficient use of land; preserves the existing tax base; prevents exploitation of land; promotes the public welfare and safety; strengthens community appeal; contributes to long-range development; implements comprehensive growth planning and changes with local needs."
Q: What does zoning not do?
A: "Zoning does not regulate the agricultural use of land. It does not result in (a) tax increase or prevent the use of land. It does not discourage additional development. It does not operate without citizen input or remain inflexible. It also does not violate constitutional provisions, control the type of construction, or discriminate in its application."
Q: If Carter County is entirely zoned, what will the zoning percentages be?
A: "Eighty-six percent of Carter County will be zoned agricultural use. Nearly 4.25 percent of the county will be zoned R-1, R-2 and R-3, for low, medium and high density dwellings. Businesses zones will take up 1.75 percent of the county. B-1 will be for neighborhood businesses, B-2 for general business and B-3 for arterial business, such as shopping centers. M-1 and M-2 zones will only be located in 1 percent of the county for light and heavy industry."
Q: What should a person do if they do not agree with the way their land is proposed to be zoned?
A: "We are under the public comment right now. It can be changed. It can be worked on, if they have a legitimate use for the property or legitimate complaint of how the mapping is done. Just like in Stoney Creek there was only three people who checked their properties when zoning went in. All three were zoned with what they thought they wanted to do with that property later on."
Q: Can you give me an example of why someone would want the zone changed?
A: "One individual wanted to (go) commercial on his property. What he wanted to do was eventually put a barber/beauty shop or a little strip mall on the location. I had already had it zoned for that. Matter of fact his building started going up the other day."
Q: Why do you think some people are against zoning?
A: "It's unkown. Everyone wants to own their property and they want to do with it what they want to, which they still can. How many people wants to start a junkyard? How many wants to put in a massage parlor or a strip club? Probably no one from here (Carter County). But there may be someone from outside that does. Once the land is sold and something starts in that nature, it is kind of hard to go and stop it. The only mechanism you have to stop that besides a lynch mob is zoning."
Q: In that situation, would a petition have effect?
A: "A petition means absolutely nothing. Because just as they want to do with their property so does this (other) individual with theirs."
Q: What are some falsehoods or myths about zoning?
A: "Just like the guy who said he was against zoning because he did not want anyone to get his guns. Where in the world did that come from? Or people who think that they need a permit to build a fence. That's not true. Other misconceptions are that we will tell them what color their house has to be painted. That's a good one. Someone said, 'I don't want to buy a building permit to put a new roof on my house.' That's just not true. A woman said that she didn't want anyone to tell her she couldn't put her garden back out. I put the book out there and said, 'Show me where it says that.'
Q: Does zoning raise taxes?
A: "Zoning helps stabilize economic development for the county which gives a bigger tax base, but it doesn't cause your property taxes to increase."
Q: In an unzoned district, are there any fees that a property owner does not have to pay compared to an owner in a zoned district?
A: "They still have to pay building and flood plains fees. They still have to pay for septic permits, electrical permits and stormwater permits. A building permit on placement would be added in a zoned area which is minimal, $25."
Q: If county-wide zoning doesn't pass, what are your plans for waste water treatment in Roan Mountain?
A: "No matter what, I am pushing for placing water here in this area (Roan Mountain). If we have control on our growth through zoning that would be the biggest plus. If not, then we will have to live with what we get. Things are coming anyways. Roan Mountain is going to develop anyways. It is either going to develop orderly and in the right mode as far as the mind set of the people here that want (to) slowly bring something in or come haphazardly and come in explosive spurts of development.
Many people are worried that zoning will regulate cleaning yards and property. Is this true?
A: (Code Enforcement Officer Craig Malone) "Litter law has nothing to do with zoning. I don't think a lot of people know that. But whether you lived in a zoned or unzoned area, the litter law remains the same because it is county-wide. The only difference in the litter law and an unzoned area is that in a zoned area you are allowed three junk(ed) cars, and, in a nonzoned area you are allowed five junk(ed) cars. That is the only difference. Other than that, the litter law lies the same county-wide. So zoning or no zoning, I am still coming."