Sunset Beach Approves UDO Changes

At their meeting on Monday evening, the town of Sunset Beach had a public hearing and approved a number of UDO changes.

Of the UDO proposals approved, BASE believes two stand out as being particularly challenging to future investment. Prior to Town Council taking action, BASE expressed concern with both Item 7 (Minimum landscaping requirements) and Items 22-34 (30% impervious cap) BASE believes both will become impediments to future tax base growth in the town. Instead of clearly delineating requirements, these proposals will cause confusion and require significant staff time to implement.

In the case of the landscaping requirements (item 7), a cumbersome equation and points system are required to determine landscaping for single family residential homes. The entire system is arbitrary. What is the difference between a medium shrub and a large shrub? How many lots on the island have existing trees (worth 10 points)? Staff will be placed in the business of overseeing individual shrub placement to ensure the point system is met. Also, note that the provisions apply to existing structures that undergo repairs/renovations greater than 50 % of value. That means existing houses on the island, if impacted by a hurricane, would have to build back AND meet the landscaping criteria.

In the case of the impervious coverage limits (items 22-34), implementing a 30% cap across the board is a tremendous disincentive for future investment. While “a solution approved by the Inspections Department” has been offered as a method to exceed the 30% cap, no specifics are provided. Thus, Inspections staff is now in the stormwater permitting business. What happens when a professional engineer seals a plan but staff does not approve? How will that situation be rectified? Essentially, this provision will require an engineered stormwater solution for any and all future development in Sunset Beach, including individual homes.

The 30% cap on impervious coverage will apply to lots in the majority of town zoning districts: Mainland Business 1, Mainland Business 2, Beach Residential 1, Beach Residential 2, Beach Business 1, Manufactured Home 1, Manufactured Home 2, and Recreational-Institutional 1. The proposed 30% cap will also apply to commercial zoned areas of the town and recreational-institutional uses like churches and government buildings. For a 4,500 square foot lot at the beach (BR2), the maximum footprint would now be 1,350 square feet. Interestingly, the changes proposed would also potentially impact existing residences in the town. For example, if a hurricane damaged an existing home in the BR2 zoning area “to an extent exceeding fifty percent (50%) of its reproducible value,” it could only be built back under the new square footage guidelines.

It should be noted that the town currently has a 30% cap on three zoning districts: Mainland Residential 1, Mainland Residential 2 and Mainland Multifamily Residential. The difference is that these lot sizes range from 10,000-40,000 square feet—not the 4,500 for beach lots. And not putting a significant obstacle in front of future commercial development in the town.

BASE believes both item 7 and items 22-34 are impediments to future investment in Sunset Beach. In light of current discussions about the town’s budget, BASE believes it is important to continue to build the town’s tax base. Without continued investment in the town, current citizens will be more heavily relied upon to fund operations, maintenance and improvements in Sunset Beach.

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