By Kristin Fox
Work has started on ReCodify Cashiers, Jackson County’s plan to rewrite the Cashiers 9.3 Cashiers Commercial Area section of the county’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Plans are to rework the entire code for the Cashiers Commercial District. The code in use today was originally adopted 20 years ago, and a rewrite is necessary to deal with the many changes that have occurred in the Cashiers area.
Throughout the recodification process, the development regulations that apply in the Cashiers commercial area will be overhauled, updating the procedures and rules for new development in the area.
The move to recodification was implemented through work completed with the Small Area Plan for Cashiers and the Cashiers Urban Land Institute (ULI) panel processes.
In 2019, the Small Area Plan was adopted to help guide development in a way that would promote positive growth while maintaining the rich natural environment and strengthen the tourism economy of the Cashiers area. Anticipating continued growth in the Cashiers area, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners adopted the Small Area Plan sponsored by the Cashiers Area Community Planning Council, financed by the county, and created with widespread community input.
As the community wanted further advice to help implement the elements of the Small Area Plan, the ULI Advisory panel was asked to provide strategic advice regarding sustainable economic expansion and preservation of the quality of life and character of place sought by business, full- and part-time residents and visitors. In February 2022, the panel presented their recommendations. The panel was sponsored by the Cashiers Area Chamber of Commerce and the county.
Chad Meadows, a consultant with CodeWright Planners, LLC, gave a presentation on the recodification process to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners at their recent June work session.
There are seven steps in the Cashiers recodification process — 1) project initiation; 2) policy guidance review; 3) community character discussion; 4) annotated outline; 5) initial draft of standards 6) revised draft; and 7) adoption. The project started at the end of 2022, and work up to this point has brought the project to the annotated outline stage of the project. The annotated outline is basically a road map for the changes that are suggested for the county’s UDO specifically for Cashiers.
At this point in the project, the community character is being defined. This is an important step as the community character will be used as the primary review criteria for new forms of applications.
“My philosophy and my team’s philosophy on development regulations is to be clear what the expectations are in the codified language so that the applicant knows what to expect, the staff knows what to expect, the neighbors know what to expect and there are no surprises,” said Meadows. “You have got to have some flexible alternatives; one size doesn’t fit all, and flexibility needs to be incorporated into the provisions to encourage good development or preferred forms of development.”
Meadows told the board that it will be desirable to move away from the current special use permit procedure that has not serve the community nor the county well and move towards a conditional rezoning process, one that allows the board to use its legislative discretion in negotiation and decision-making processes.
“The conditional rezoning process is going to give the board, the Community Planning Council and the planning board the opportunity to speak with applicants and the community, and the opportunity to negotiate,” said Meadows. “Those are three important things, particularly when it comes to the large developments. Nine times out of ten for the larger developers it is not the first time they have gone through the development review process, and they know what they want and what they’re looking for.”
In addition, changes are expected to the distinction of two districts in the Cashiers’ commercial area, the village commercial and the general commercial. There is not a lot of difference between the two different districts with the range of uses and dimensional standards basically the same. The key difference is the size of the development proposal that triggers the special use permit process. When the special use permit is no longer used, there will no longer be a need for the distinction between the two districts.
Meadows stated the plan is to rezone the land that is inside the commercial area to one of three sub-districts, either a mixed-use sub-district, a commercial sub-district, or a residential sub-district.
Forty-two per cent of the land uses inside the Cashiers commercial area are residential in nature yet have commercial zoning, which is a mismatch that needs to be addressed in the recodification. A suggestion to fix this would be to have mixed-used development with residential and non-residential use types in the same building at least in the core of the Crossroads area. This could be a solution for the lack of affordable housing for seasonal workers and create more opportunities for those that want to be able to live near or in the Cashiers commercial area.
Open space is another standard to be addressed in the recodification process. While open space is already important in the county, it is suggested that those requirements are broadened from open space in environmentally sensitive and active recreation areas to include development of outdoor dining, gathering spaces, plazas, and performance spaces, more of a village environment in the open space.
To address the traffic congestion in Cashiers, suggestions include creating alternative routes through additional new streets provided by the private sector, creating land uses where people don’t necessarily need to get in their car and ways to make it easier for people to walk or ride bikes via pedestrian connectivity rules.
Meadows and his team will continue work to refine the community character standards for Cashiers. The initial draft for the suggested changes to UDO for the Cashiers area are expected to be ready by August for the staff to review with the final rezoning and text amendment to the UDO in front of the commissioners by October.
To learn more about ReCodify Cashiers, visit the Jackson County website under the Planning Department tab, Projects and Updates or visit www.recodifycashiers.com.