The repair and maintenance of existing driveways that extend into side yard setbacks was again the topic of discussion at the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board’s meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8. As adopted in the Unified Development Ordinance by the board of aldermen on Nov. 8, the town’s current ordinance does not allow removal or replacement of any existing driveway located within a side yard setback.
Wrightsville Beach residents Gene Miller and Bill Morris presented the planning board with the inconveniences they would experience in replacing their driveways because of this ordinance at the board’s last meeting on Dec. 4. Following the appeal of Miller and Morris, planning staff developed three options for the planning board to consider that might address the issue.
Eryn Moller, Wrightsville Beach Planner I, said staff suggested either leaving the ordinance alone because it already includes the option for a homeowner to appeal the town manager in nonconforming situations; allowing a homeowner to repair or replace up to 50 percent of the existing driveway with pervious materials without having to bring the entire driveway into compliance; or allowing the replacement or repair of a driveway with the condition that any part of the driveway extending into the side yard setback be pervious materials.
Planning board member David Culp mentioned that one of the issues with side yard driveways that arose in a UDO committee meeting was that fire chief Frank Smith recommended deterring parking along the sides of homes because it does not allow room for emergency vehicles or crews.
Another issue raised by board member Ace Cofer was that the town has always made a push to recapture more on-street public parking in areas where there are back-to-back lots covered in impervious surfaces like those on Henderson Street. In allowing a homeowner to replace a driveway located within a setback, Cofer said he was concerned it would be counterintuitive to the town’s campaign.
Miller and Morris were in attendance again at Tuesday’s planning board meeting, and when planning board member Walt DeVries inquired as to which option would resolve their issues, both named the third. Morris said he has spent two years trying to replace his cracked driveway and that he had already been through the appeal process outlined in the current ordinance with no result, despite former town manager Bob Simpson saying he would bring it to the board of aldermen’s attention. Morris surmised that Simpson’s departure and the then escalating smoking ban issue caused his appeal to be back burnered.
With Culp providing the only dissenting vote, the planning board voted 5-1 to approve the third option, which allows homeowners with existing permitted driveways that extend into the side yard setbacks to repair or replace those sections with pervious surfaces. In addressing Cofer’s concerns, board member Allen Rippy made the suggestion to include language in the proposed ordinance amendment, stating that any portion of an existing driveway located within a town right of way could not be replaced or repaired.
Planning and parks director Tony Wilson said staff would present the planning board with the ordinance for approval at its Feb. 5 meeting.