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Stanfield considers setting appearance standard

The town of Stanfield is looking into the possibility of appearance ordinances.

At their last regular meeting, councilors decided to research such bylaws and begin discussing how to implement them.

“If we want to preserve what Stanfield is, and what it looks like, then in the future to come we need to make sure we have something (like this) in place,” said planning and zoning commissioner Rick Williams, who will head up that research.

Appearance ordinances — which vary based on a property’s zoning classification — set a standard for how a community looks, officials detailed. For instance, some may require fences to be put around machinery on commercial properties. Others may limit the size of outbuildings allowed on residential properties.

“One of the considerations in this is to establish what is a good place,” Mayor Kevin Barbee said. “Keep in mind, we live in a community where people are constantly moving in and some are moving out and so the community itself will gradually change over time…without anything to establish (a standard) we’re leaving it wide open.”

In Stanfield, differences of opinion have already led to a number of appearance related questions and issues over the past couple of years.

The most recent involved the number of recreational vehicles allowed on residential properties. Others have involved complaints about the building materials used in the historic district, or questions about what how parking lots can be structured, or queries from developers about shared driveways.

“And it’s something we probably need to address sooner rather than later,” Williams said.

The state recently passed a law (SL 2017-10) that will limit a town’s legal recourse on zoning/appearance matters. If municipalities do not begin enforcing their zoning and/or appearance ordinances by October, they could lose their right to bring those violations to court.

“We need to keep that in mind,” Williams said.

Even so, not everyone was eager to jump ahead. Several councilors cautioned that the process should involve plenty of involvement from the public before moving forward.

“Yes, we need to move forward in that direction, but do it with caution,” Councilor James Griffin said. “(We don’t want to) control the way everybody lives… That’s my fear and I don’t want to be part of that.”

For now though, all the councilors (except Greg Lucas who was absent) voiced vocal support for further research. Williams and the town staff will look into such ordinances in other towns and pull out suggestions for Stanfield.

Any proposed changes or additions that arise from that, however, must go through the planning and zoning board and a public hearing before they can be approved.

“It seems like a good place to start,” Barbee said.