Connections 2025, the Comprehensive Plan – along with its graphic representation, the Generalized Future Land Use Map (GFLUM) – has been confusing people since it was passed by the City Council in 2003.
Now that the Comp Plan, as it is called, is in its final months before being replaced by the new GSO 2040 Comprehensive Plan, it continues to be source of controversy and confusion.
(GSO 2040 was supposed to go into effect on July 1, but like everything else could be delayed because public hearings have been canceled due to COVID-19.)
At the two controversial rezoning requests heard by the City Council on April 21, the opponents strongly objected to the Comp Plan amendment that preceded the rezoning.
At the Zoning Commission meeting in January, when the rezoning of the corner of Lawndale and Lake Jeanette was discussed, the opponents complained that they had been tricked because they were unaware that the Zoning Commission would be considering a Comp Plan amendment along with the rezoning request.
At the City Council meeting on April 21, attorney David Pokela went into great detail on how the rezoning request for the old Sedgefield Show Grounds was not consistent with the Comp Plan and according to the ordinance land can only be rezoned when it is consistent with the Comp Plan, aka the GFLUM.
It would seem, and does often seem to those who oppose rezoning requests, that if the rezoning is not consistent with the Comp Plan then the City Council cannot legally rezone the property.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
As Mayor Nancy Vaughan explained at the April 21 meeting, the City Council amends the Comp Plan on a “fairly regular basis.”
In fact, at the April 21 meeting, the City Council amended the Comp Plan three times to make three rezoning requests they approved legal.
The Comp Plan was actually passed in 2003 without the City Council reading the final version. It was only later that the City Council discovered that they could only amend the Comp Plan twice a year and that the plan as approved gave both the Planning Board and the Zoning Commission veto power over the City Council on Comp Plan amendments and, consequently, rezoning requests. The City Council amended those clauses fairly quickly, and since 2003 not only has the Comp Plan been amended countless times, but the City Council has consistently made it easier to amend the Comp Plan.
For example, currently for lots of less of than an acre in size, no Comp Plan amendment is needed to approve a rezoning that is contrary to the Comp Plan.