How will the new UDO impact the rural buffer?

Orange County is proposing to create a new Unified Development Ordinance which would combine and replace all of their existing laws about zoning and property development.  At the some time some changes are being proposed to several long-range planning tools. This document was posted on the County Web page in November and is pretty massive in size, close to 800 pages.

Currently, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and the County have a rural buffer which limits sprawl at the edges of our towns. I'm concerned about how the UDO might affect the buffer, so I've taken a few steps to prompt some discussion of the matter.

Last week I requested that Mayor Kleinschmidt write a letter to the Board of County Commissioners requesting that the county proposed Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) be referred to the Chapel Hill Town Council for review and recommendation so that our Board may examine all provisions of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) applicable to the Rural Buffer or related to any other provisions of the Orange County-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Joint Planning Agreement.

Additionally, I asked the County’s Planning Dept. to be placed on the agenda with a presentation of the UDO specific to but not limited to the Rural Buffer and a revised timetable for review and approval of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) sections applicable to Chapel Hill be adjusted to receive the Council’s comments.

On Monday there was a public hearing on the ordinance, did anyone go? I'm curious to hear what readers of OP think about it. 

Link to the Ordinance:


At the public hearing ( and at the joint Planning Board- Commissioners meeting before that), several Planning Board members and Commissioner Alice Gordon expressed concerns that there was more to consider, especially the new "conditional" zoning category. At the Planning Board meeting this next Wed., Dec. 1, the PB will propose a new timetable. Two comments - 1) Alice Gordon is doing her job. The other commissioners seem to be spending time with their finger in the wind that would be better spent actually considering policy & 2) Some members of the Economic Deveopment Commission and the business community are calling for the quick passage of the UDO in the same spirit that a frat boy tries to talk his drunk girlfriend into taking off her panties. 

Mark, The so called conditional zone is my biggest concern. What is a conditional zone district? Am I understanding that it is a floating zone and does not have to go through the SUP process? Can it be an over lay to any existing zone, i.e. Rural Buffer (RB) zone? Seems to me that this is being rushed through and the CZD is a back door way into busting up the RB in name of flexibility for developers? 

A "conditional use distric" is supposed to conform to "all applicable developmet regulations for the corresponding general use zoning district".   "Conditional zoning district" applications do not require a Special Use Permit. There is a "table of permitted uses"  that would be allowed in these districts. There, I think, is where things get a little gray. In January, the planning staff is going to present some actual hypothetical cases and show how they would work through the process. This will be illuminating, as we have heretofore been just interpreting the regulations in general.

Is there a map that shows the demarcation of the urban services boundary? 

I am looking for something with street names. For example, I always thought that Eubanks Road was the outer limit to the north, but is that true?

I believe the northern boundary on the Carrboro side is about a half mile north of Eubanks Road.

That indentation on the north side is Duke Forest. You can also see where 86 meets I40. Looks like the other boundary might be New Hope Church Rd.We do need a more detailed map.

Aren't you on the county planning board? Perhaps you could request a map that is easily readable with clearly visible road names. 


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