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'Transitional zoning': Rezoning votes hold off effort to increase density by interstate


Ty Roush   | Black Mountain News

BLACK MOUNTAIN -- With two Nov. 19 votes to both approve and deny rezoning proposals, Black Mountain is putting a hold on developing higher density residential areas close to downtown.

That is, at least until the Blue Ridge Road-Interstate 40 interchange is completed in 2025.

Sam Decker initially requested his 16-acre North Fork Road property be rezoned entirely from CR-1, a designation for conservation residential district, to UR-8, a designation for urban residential district.

Both the Planning Board and alderman Ryan Stone disagreed with Decker's proposal, suggesting that the property's slope would prove challenging without proper rainwater infrastructure.

Additional arguments arose because of the designation of surrounding properties. All adjacent properties are currently designated conservation residential, which are "established to protect areas in which the principal use of the land is residential and agricultural."

A staff report given to aldermen prior to voting "(talks) about the need for our use of what they call 'transitional zoning' between our densest district, the UR-8, and then going into this conservation district," Stone said. "And I'm all for approaching that."

The Planning Board denied Decker's request and sent a recommendation to the board for spot zoning, with a four-acre plot on the property's west side to be rezoned as TR-4, or town residential, and a 12-acre plot on the east side to be rezoned as SR-2, or suburban residential.

An urban residential designation would have allowed for a max density of eight units per acre, an increase of one unit per acre at the existing conservation residential designation.

Stone was the lone vote against the approval of the Planning Board's recommendation.

Ruby Begley's request

Ruby Begley's three properties, located at 134 Sunset Drive, 6 Vance Drive and 99999 Vance Drive, coincide with the town's 2025 construction of a Blue Ridge Road-Interstate 40 interchange. The cumulative 10 acres were requested to be rezoned from town residential to urban residential.

Contrasted with Decker's property, located outside of downtown, Begley's property is located closer to the interstate. The Planning Board also recommended for the board to deny Begley's request, leading to a unanimous vote to do so.

Archie Pertiller Jr. said both of his votes were because of the recommendations made by the Planning Board.

"I followed their judgment," Pertiller said. "I trusted what they had to say."

An existing town residential designation allows for a max density of four units per acre and was established "to allow for a variety of housing types while maintaining an overall residential character with medium density." An urban residential designation, proposed to both Decker and Begley's properties, would "promote density in the more urbanized and developable areas of town."

While he says he commends the efforts of the Planning Board, Stone disagreed with how its recommendations should be handled by aldermen.

"I don't think the Planning Board's role is to be King Solomon and decide how to divide the baby," Stone said. "Their role is to advise on a particular project, and I appreciate them going above and beyond, but I hope that doesn't become a consistent trend for them."

Developments that would have been possible because of an urban residential designation include community living facilities, places of worship and multifamily residential areas.

Begley said in her application that reducing required lot sizes would create opportunities for affordable housing. This complements the property’s location by the interstate to provide additional development and density.

'Pro-density'

Planning Board member Jesse Gardner agreed with Begley in the board's Sept. 28 meeting, adding that he was "pro-density." Board member Pam Norton disagreed and stated opposing arguments from nearby residents that the property "backs up to no other UR-8."

"We're a town, and we're supposed to be more dense than rural Buncombe County," Gardner said. "I think eight units an acre is appropriate because when you develop this you won't get that many, you'll probably get four or five."

Town attorney Ron Sneed said development of the areas was not guaranteed despite the designations allowing for higher-density construction.

Begley's request coincides with plans to add an interchange connecting Interstate 40 and Blue Ridge Road, now postponed until 2025, and a small area plan to develop the surrounding area.

Black Mountain recognizes the interchange and nearby plots as a "future growth area" while "exploring independent land use and transportation opportunities along Blue Ridge Road," the town's website says. Proving an alternative access route to downtown will "encourage more commercial and industrial activity in the western portions" of town.

Residents responded to an October 2019 unveiling of Blue Ridge Road development plans and the proposed interchange saying that they would prefer a plan that "will empower and assist residents in planning for growth."

Stone said that any possible and future rezoning requests to the Blue Ridge Road development site would be different.

"That area is certainly compatible," Stone said. "It's flat for the most part, which is unusual in town."