February 24, 2020
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Citizens Will Have Little Control

Published Dec. 26, 2018

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Our town is considering a change to zoning regulations that could have far-reaching impact: the amendment of existing zoning districts to include floating districts or zones. On Dec. 13, the Deep River Planning & Zoning Commission held a public hearing on this issue.

The crowd, which voiced unanimous opposition, overflowed the small downstairs meeting room. Noise from upstairs made it difficult to hear, and the busy time of year had prevented many interested citizens from attending. The commissioners eventually agreed to postpone the public hearing to Thursday, Jan. 17, and to guarantee a larger venue.

Now is the chance for Deep River citizens to make their voices heard!

In contrast to a typical residential or commercial zone, a floating district is a set of permitted uses that exists in the abstract until it lands on a concrete location.

Allowing floating zones puts enormous power into the hands of zoning officials. Instead of having to follow strict rules about what is allowed in each part of town, officials can permit previously prohibited uses. (Google “floating zones in Clinton” to learn about an unfortunate result.)

Instead of presenting citizens with the complex pros and cons of allowing floating zones at all, the commission seemed to be moving straight toward permitting specific floating zones related to landscape/nursery services and contractors’ businesses. Why the rush?

Once a precedent is set, citizens will have little control over how this concept is applied in the future. Do your readers want a floating zone to magically land in their neighborhood and overturn the protections you were guaranteed when you bought your house?

Town officials tried quickly to persuade us that the benefits outweigh the risks. So far, we are not convinced.

Stacey Sparks
Deep River