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New Columbus businesses may require plan reviews 

Town council agrees for planning board members to receive training 

 

COLUMBUS—The Columbus Planning Board requested that they see plans for any new buildings constructed in town and council agreed as long as planning board members receive training first.  

Columbus Town Council met Thursday and held a lengthy discussion about what its planning board requested.  

Council members at first disagreed with some planning board members expressing their concerns that some new businesses coming to town were not needed.  

Councilman Mark Phillips said the businesses coming obviously have a financial interest that the businesses are going to be successful.  

Columbus Mayor Eric McIntyre said the town has stipulations in its ordinances about what types of businesses can come in certain zoning districts.  

“The bottom line is if our bylaws don’t permit it, it’s a done deal, but if it’s permitted, the only thing (the planning board) does is look at whether it is permitted,” McIntyre said.  

Phillips said it appears to him that someone on the planning board wants the right to object to a business.  

Councilman Robert Williamson said the general discussion of the planning board was more about planning. The discussion centered around the new buildings that are being constructed along Mills Street with a Bojangles’, Verizon store, an urgent care and an O’Reilly.  

Williamson said the discussion was more about the planning board having a discussion with the business owners about where the lighting is going and the trees.  

“What they are asking for is to tell them what it looks like,” Williamson said.  

He said the new O’Reilly’s does not fit the town’s ordinance pertaining to looking like adjacent properties.  

McIntyre said he may have misread or misunderstood exactly what the planning board is requesting. He said the board is asking for businesses to go to the planning board, not for the planning board to agree or disagree with certain businesses, but to look at the plans before the town manager signs off on a zoning permit.  

Town manager Tim Barth said this would only apply to new buildings being constructed. If a business is moving to an existing building, the new protocol would not apply.  

Currently, new business construction is required to go to the town manager to get a zoning permit, which will be approved by the manager if the required setbacks, etc. are met. The business then goes to the county to obtain a building permit and can begin construction.  

“This to me is a slippery slope,” Phillips said. “We need business.”  

Phillips said if the town makes it too restrictive, businesses will stop coming.  

McIntyre said if the business meets all the criteria, the town cannot tell them they cannot come in.  

He said the planning board members need to understand it’s not up to the individual.  

“Even though a planning board members doesn’t want that store there, it’s a moot point,” McIntyre said.  

Williamson the planning board wants to look at plans to be able to ask the developer if they considered certain things, such as screening, residential properties and separate driveways, not to restrict the business.  

Phillips said he would be on board with the planning board seeing plans before the zoning permit is issued if the planning board receives training first.  

Williamson said Columbus has 300 acres of land that can be developed, so the town is going to see a lot of development in the future.  

Columbus directed town attorney Lora Baker to draft a policy statement and Barth was directed to come up with a checklist for the planning board as well as find training for members.  

Council plans to discuss the recommendation again next month.