Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Coventry Woods vs. Zoning Board

Zoning update in their own words from the Coventry Woods Neighborhood Association. This is a fairly close-in eastside neighborhood that works together to try to preserve their established neighborhood. The post is long, and edited somewhat, but it's a complicated issue that's important to a small group of people. It's also about trying to save trees.

"After an all morning session Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Zoning Board of Adjustments voted late that afternoon on one of two appeals placed before it by the Coventry Woods Neighborhood Association, and voted to examine the second appeal in the near future.

The ZBA voted 4-to-1 against the CWNA's contention that notification should have been given property owners adjacent to the Independence Woods subdevelopment project.

Independence Woods received preliminary subdivision approval in December 2006; notice of project approval was posted to the City-County's Charmeck web site page close to a month later, long after the 10-day window for appeal had expired.

ZBA member Chet Rabon, an attorney, said the CWNA is in a "classic 'Catch-22' situation" and that the Planning staff's lack of formal notification to the Coventry Woods and Cedars East neighborhoods created a due-process issue -- "a situation fundamentally unfair to Coventry Woods."

The remaining ZBA members said that Zoning Ordinances specify notification of adjacent property owners only in code-specified instances, an argument put forward by the City Attorney's office; or that, simply, the stated 10-day deadline passed.

The remaining appeal before the ZBA concerns the applicability of the tree-save ordinance, which gives a "density bonus" to developers who set aside a percentage of land for saving existing tree canopy.

The East Charlotte tract in question, between Independence Boulevard and Amity Place, adjoining the Coventry Woods and Cedars East neighborhoods, is zoned R-4: It calls for four lots per acre.

Because of the tree-save proviso and other bonuses, the Planning department's subdivision staff gave developer Jerry Rigsby the go-ahead to develop the 15.8 acres with lots that are the equivalent of 10 per acre; plus the OK to build houses with only 6 feet between them. The increase in density from standard R-4 exceeds 20 percent.

Most of the tract has been clear-cut and graded; the long-established tree canopy there has been bulldozed; the net result of the tree-save and other bonuses has been to allow a de facto rezoning bereft of a formal rezoning and the public input a formal rezoning would require.

Through its attorney, Kenneth Davies of Davies & Grist, the CWNA will pursue the appropriateness of the tree-save bonuses given Independence Woods at an upcoming ZBA session.

In the meantime, the CWNA will pursue various appellate options.

....The Mayor and City Council have pledged to focus attention on maintaining and improving life in East Charlotte. Meanwhile, the bottom has fallen out of the sub-prime housing market, and the government, media and public is decrying the proliferation of poor-quality subdivisions.

But the city Planning staff nonetheless is defending its approval of Independence Woods, a low-quality, in-fill project... ."

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