Development regulations are a hot topic of interest right now. Here are some recently asked citizen questions along with answers to help understand what the county currently has in place outside of municipalities. If you have additional questions, contact Transylvania County Planning Department at (828) 884-3205 and our staff will be happy to assist.
- How is a permit issued?
Most projects require several permits that may come from different offices in order to get started. Each permit must be applied for with documentation submitted for review. That documentation allows the office responsible for issuing the permit to evaluate whether the project complies with the set of regulations that tied to that permit. The staff person issuing the permit may conduct a site visit, but can only deny a permit if it is not compliant with the regulation. For instance, if an applicant to build a house wants to build right next to their property line and there is no regulation saying there has to be a setback of X feet, the staff person cannot deny the permit because they think it unwise or impractical to build right on the property line.
- What does Transylvania County regulate?
Transylvania County enforces building codes and environmental health codes that are determined at the state level. County staff enforcing those regulations are responsible for making sure that projects comply with those laws and issue permits providing the required information is submitted and it meets the legal requirements.
Transylvania County also has a floodplain ordinance. While you cannot build in the floodway, you can build in the 100 and 500 year floodplain as long as the project meets the technical requirements in the regulation that allow it.
Transylvania County also has a cell tower ordinance, Pisgah Forest Highway Overlay Regulations, Mountain Ridge Protection, Sign ordinance and regulations on Scenic Byways. Staff responsible for those ordinances may only evaluate based on the regulations as adopted. To deny a permit that complies with a regulation is unlawful.
- People in my community have seen plans submitted to the county for a piece of property and we are opposed to it for many good reasons. We are gathering petitions and we want the county to stop the project. Can you?
State law does not allow a local government to apply a regulation retroactively. Once a project has started with the county and submitted any materials, the county cannot take action to stop the project or attempt to adopt regulations that would then impact that project. Only the regulations that are in place at the time of submittal can be considered and if a property owner meets those regulations, the county must issue the corresponding permit. The county can adopt regulations that may change whether or how a project proceeds in the future under similar circumstances. All property owners have access to copies of existing regulations and this allows them to make decisions about use of property including investing in plans and due diligence with an understanding of what will be required and this ability is legally protected under the law.
- I think we should consider land use planning and that we should have regulations that prohibit chain businesses from most areas. How do we do that?
Counties in North Carolina have the option of having land use planning, or zoning regulations, that may include regulating the uses allowed on a particular property, how close buildings may be to lot lines or each other, landscaping requirements, parking requirements, etc. This process under state statute takes 60-90 days to adopt, but much longer to facilitate the conversation in a community about the vision of what development may look like. There are also legal parameters of what zoning may or may not do. For instance, zoning cannot prohibit a business because it is owned corporate. Uses have to be looked at equitably. A retail store owned by a corporate owner cannot be treated differently in the regulation than a locally owned retail store.
If regulation is desired in a community, planning processes require that citizens work together to create both a vision of what development they want to see and also how much regulation they themselves are willing to abide by on their own property to assure that others also comply while also abiding by the legal parameters at the state and federal level on what can be implemented. This is not something that can be accomplished once a project is already begun.
- Can the county commissioners just tell a property owner they have to plant some landscaping to fit in to the area better?
A local government’s authority to regulate land use is granted by statute. Unless there is a regulation or ordinance dictating otherwise, a local government does not have authority to require a property owner to change use or development plans which have been properly submitted and meet all other permitting and legal requirements. The county commissioners or county staff cannot require landscaping from a property owner unless the plans do not meet a landscaping regulation which has already been adopted. Transylvania County’s ordinances can be found here https://www.transylvaniacounty.org/county-forms-ordinances.