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Cumberland board fails to pause use of smaller lots by homebuilders

Vote to set moratorium on zero lot-line development falls short


Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Jeannette Council's name.

Developers will not have to deal with temporary restrictions on lot size and setbacks after a vote by the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners on Monday morning.

A motion to establish a 90-day moratorium for zero lot-line development failed to get a majority vote. Board member Jeannette Council made the motion for the moratorium to allow the county Planning Board to review the issue and make recommendations to the commissioners.

Council and Commissioners Toni Stewart and Glenn Adams voted in favor of the motion. Commissioners Michael Boose, Larry Lancaster and Jimmy Keefe voted against it.

The moratorium was one of two options the county attorney recommended in a memo to the commissioners. The second was to eliminate zero lot-line development without further input from the Planning Board and to amend the county’s subdivision ordinance accordingly.

Just before Monday’s public hearing on the subject, Commissioners Chairman Adams said the board never intended to stop zero lot-line development. 

“That’s the furthest thing from the truth. We are for orderly development, not getting rid of zero lot lines,” Adams said.

He blamed miscommunication and misinformation for confusion on the issue. He said the board often has received conflicting recommendations from the Planning Board and its staff.

After the vote, Adams said the board will still ask the county staff to look at the issue and make recommendations.

Zero lot-line development allows subdivision developers to build on smaller lots and use smaller setbacks from adjoining structures. Rural residents in Stedman, Eastover and other communities adjacent to proposed zero lot-line developments had complained to the county about the smaller residential lot sizes.

Four people spoke against the proposed moratorium. No one spoke in favor of it.

Lori Epler, vice president of Larry King & Associates homebuilders, said that eliminating zero lot lines would be “stealing” the right of builders and property owners to maximize return on their property.

Amanda Smith, president of Longleaf Pine Realtors, said there is a shortage of houses in the Cumberland County market. Removing the zero lot-line option would “wipe away affordable houses” here, and it would take almost a decade to make up the shortage, Smith said.

Jamie Godwin, president of the Homebuilders Association of Fayetteville, said removing zero lot-line development would curtail thousands of jobs in the homebuilding industry and shift new construction to surrounding counties. He also said that because Cumberland County lacks water and sewer lines in some areas, zero lot lines rarely are used because there’s a need for septic tanks and leech lines. That requires builders in the county to use larger lots and have greater separation between houses.

Finally, former County Attorney Neil Yarborough, speaking on behalf of developers, said the process of reviewing zero lot lines should be transparent and involve the public. Doing so, he said, would result in greater acceptance of any policy on the issue.

After Monday’s public meeting, according to the agenda, the board was scheduled to go into closed session to discuss land acquisition and economic development.

Cumberland County, homebuilders, zoning, business, development