High Point Development Ordinance Revision Making Waves in Real Estate Community

Greensboro and Guilford county recently updated their development ordinances and it wasn’t an easy, or quick, process. High Point has retained a consultant to help them revise theirs, and despite having the opportunity to learn from their neighbors’ experiences the city’s staff appears to want to go their own way. From the Rhino Times:

In an Oct. 10 letter to its members, HPRAR (High Point Regional Association of Realtors) President Cindy Martin and immediate past president Amy Hedgecock said that applying for the grant and rewriting the zoning ordinance makes sense, because developers shouldn’t have to deal with divergent zoning ordinances in High Point, Greensboro and Guilford County. But they said they weren’t happy with the way the rewrite is going under Clarion Associates.

“Now we are seeing what seems to be plans-in-the-making for a different permitting process, a longer process, and a far more restrictive process, with fewer alternatives for cost effective development,” Martin and Hedgecock wrote. “When so much work has been done to create a good plan for our region, why has High Point chosen to spend more money to start over, and create a system that is likely to be more restrictive and more costly for our community?”

The idea, when the City Council hired Clarion Associates, was that the zoning rewrite would be guided by an Update Advisory Committee of developers, redevelopers, High Point Planning and Zoning Commission members, architects, city planners and members of the High Point City Project, which the City Council created in an effort to redevelop High Point‘s traditional neighborhoods.

The advisory committee appears to be more development friendly than Clarion Associates, or at least less willing to try to achieve grand changes in High Point through restrictive zoning. The advisory committee is also less favorable to giving more authority to city planners and inspectors – something Clarion Associates recommends, because they claim it will speed development by allowing minor variances to be handled by the High PointPlanning and Development Department, rather than having to go to the City Council.

City planners on the committee, of course, agree with Clarion and think giving them more power is a great idea…

High Point City Council should empower the Update Advisory Committee (UAC) to have equal voice with city staff on developing the updated UDO [Unified Development Ordinance],” Martin and Hedgecock wrote. “A great Update Advisory Committee (UAC) has been established and includes representatives from the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the City Project, the real estate and building industry and neighborhood leaders.

“However, input from the UAC carries no weight. In a recent meeting with staff and consultants, only abbreviated discussions on selected topics were allowed. UAC members were directed to submit all other comments in writing. Those comments were compiled, but were never discussed with the UAC and may not be incorporated in the plan.”

According to the HPRAR, the advisory committee is scheduled to meet only four times in the two- to two-and-a-half years Clarion Associates plans to take to rewrite the zoning ordinance.

Revising a development ordinance is a massive, detailed and time consuming undertaking. If the city staff and their consultants only plan on meeting with the advisory committee four times it’s hard to imagine them getting the feedback necessary to make the ordinance as effective as it needs to be for all parties.