Apr 242010
 

Y
esterday, many of you received an email blast from the executive board of the WCWAA concerning the possibility of the park being forced to shut down. The prospect is unthinkable to every parent whose children use and depend on the park — except of course, to a few county government bureaucrats.

Once again it seems that Union County is bedeviled by people with glaring ‘Conflicts of Interest’ being in a position to act in behalf of the own personal interest. The park issue is no different and here is why!

Would it surprise you know that Union County HIRED an outspoken adjoining property owner to the park and according to the Enquirer Journal article included below, a leader of the park opposition? This individual is now employed as Storm Water Engineer in the Union County Public Works Department and has been since 2008!!! The very department trying to close WCWAA by regulatory fiat! This isn’t an X-FILE, folks!

It has been obvious from the start, that the adjoining property owners are trying to leverage the floodplain issue as a way to bankrupt and close the park. Were they to have “Agent on the Inside”, such a circumstance could and would have certainly aided their cause.

I find it curious and remarkably convenient that someone would leave their job as an engineer with the City of Charlotte at the same time they were embroiled in the WCWAA issue, only to take a job with Union County. But for the sake of argument, lets assume the actions by the county towards the park were not influenced by this employee, instead lets examine why the County would hire someone with a history of being actively involved in a local controversy and place that individual in the inevitable position of giving the appearance that decisions were made for personal benefit.

Over the years, I have hammered the point, that imagined or real conflicts of interest shake the foundation of trust in government and I have grave misgivings with the conduct, perspective and impartiality of some county staff members, involved in this matter.

Here’s more.

It was recently revealed that a (another) County UCPW employee inadvertently or ‘accidentally on purpose’ neglected to provide email correspondence she had with a state agency, which was the subject of a “Freedom of Information” (FOI) filing. The WCWAA representative only found about the missing items, when the same FOI request to the state revealed the emails.

Apparently, from the content of the emails, it is be easy to understand why someone might be reluctant to comply, because what those emails revealed was a unilateral decision by this employee to refuse the state’s suggestions of how to mediate and quickly solve the park’s problems.

Emails held back from WCWAA Freedom of Information request:

Email 1: From Ed Curtis of NC Emergency Management, declaring a CLOMR (Condition Letter of Map Revsion) was an option to resolve the park compliance issue. View Email 1 – 2008-03-07

Email 2: County employee questions whether a CLOMR is an valid. View Email 2 – 2008-03-10

Email 3: Email from Ed Curtis saying that a CLOMR IS an option, refuting the County employee assertion. View Email 3 – 2008-03-14

Email 4: Email where County employee responds saying “What’s to keep them from removing a bucket load of dirt and calling it good”? View Email 4 – 2008-03-17

Email 5: Email from Ed Curtis taking the CLOMR option off the table. Email 5 – 2008-03-17

And still more.

One of the issues yet to be resolved is establishing a base flood level. This is done by comparing a flood map from prior years to current. The County staff magically produced a 1997 map as base of comparison and subsequently declared that WCWAA field construction had created a one foot rise.

When the WCWAA asked for a copy, the staff sent only the elevation map and was unable to provide the accompanying high-res aerial photos, stating that they ‘were not’ available. WCWAA had to track down the surveyor who produced the maps to get the photos.

Would it surprise you to learn that photos showed a subdivision grading underway, a road and cul-de-sac in place and that Union County was willing to make one-foot rise judgment, while ignoring obvious contributions of a subdivision (do note: Union County permitted a subdivision to be built in a flood plain) grading had on the flood plain.

Click here to view WCWAA area 1997 photo the County staff didn’t have.

Once this information came to light, Commissioner Kuehler met with the County Manager and Director of Public Works, to ask for an explanation of this behavior. She is still waiting…

What’s next.

If you consider all the facets of the WCWAA case; the upstream and downstream development construction, the lack of County permit enforcement, park engineering issues and the need for the park, it is plain to see that reasonable compromise and accommodation could have prevailed — it should have prevailed. Had there been any interest by the Union County staff or 2006-2008 Commissioner majority, the solution would have be found and implemented by now.

It wasn’t.

Instead, with a bureaucratic belligerency as evident by the emails and actions taken to date, the solution to keeping the park open has been left in the hands of cold, black or white thinking regulators who weld FEMA no-rise regulations like it was handed down from Mount Olympus.

There WAS an opportunity that the state offered Union County, that was taken off the table in a self-righteous zeal, disguised as professional opinion. That’s the way I read those emails. That’s the way I interpret the withholding of the emails from the FOI request. I can argue that there is a prejudice against the park, against those who built it and especially against those who use it.

The decision by Baucom, Mills & Pressley to sue WCWAA for compliance, the way it was added as a last minute agenda item, to the 3-2 vote is proof of the mindset. Openshaw and Lane were in the minority.

Meanwhile western Union County hasn’t a single park to call it’s own, and the park we do have and fund 95% ourselves is a target.

The current Commissioner majority is working towards finding a resolution, but they need the active support of WCWAA members and involvement in the process.

Below is a post I wrote in 2007,

The following post was published in the VSO on Septemeber 18, 2007

WCWAA Blindsided by County Commissioners vote

Last night, in an action that was nothing short of ‘premeditated’, Union County Commissioners Baucom, Mills and Pressley blindsided the Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association (WCWAA), when they voted to order county lawyers to begin legal actions against the association regarding flooding issues affecting adjoining properties.
Back-stabbed

Without benefit or courtesy of the customary public notice, Commissioner Pressley added the WCWAA issue to last nights agenda and after a brisk discussion with staff, Commissioner Mills made the motion to start legal ball rolling. Commission Openshaw objected to the ‘unfairness’ of taking action without giving prior notice and voted against Mr. Mills motion as did Roger Lane.

Media Coverage

Enquirer Journal: WCWAA, neighbors at odds over fill dirt, flooding near park

The Other Side

In a letter to WCWAA members early last month, Gary Hibler, President of the association stated :

    ..there are a very few families who own property in close proximity to our athletic fields who would like to shut us down. In short, they are accusing us of undertaking actions which increased the flooding of their properties even though most of their properties were already in whole or in part in the flood plain when they bought them. I state emphatically to you that these accusations are unfounded, untrue and that WCWAA has constantly followed the technical and procedural requirements of all governmental and regulatory agencies. We constructed our facilities and are operating them in a lawful manner. The engineering firm that we obtained to assist us in our construction has confirmed on several occasions that under no circumstances has WCWAA done anything which has aggravated the tenancy of the surrounding properties to flood.

In recent months, the commissioners have had a number of closed (secret) meetings with the County and staff attorneys to discuss the issue and during the discussion last night, Mr. Pressley alluded to a meeting with the WCWAA representatives, who he said were given 7 days to respond. Evidently when they didn’t, then Pressley and company were provoked to act.

What the contributing factors are or whose at fault, pardon the pun, is very murky at best. The county flood plain rises as the more development takes place. For example, how much has the new Shea Home development (Hollister) contributed to the flooding? The more water is displaced the higher the flood plain rises everywhere else. The real question is whose agenda is served by this premature action.

Frankly, I was surprised that Baucom, Mills and Pressley took time away the many early Christmas gifts they handed out to the county developers, with the ‘new’, previously secret sewer policy ((The sewer policy enacted last night was crafted only in closed session and in many peoples mind illegal, as it violated NC open meeting rules.)) that gives all the sewer and WATER homebuilders need to construct the more than 8100 homes in the pipeline, but that is subject of another post.

 Posted by at 3:57 pm
Sep 272008
 

At a special meeting, Monday Sept. 22, Union County revealed a ‘draft’ of it’s upcoming water policy, titled “The Union County Policy for Allocating Water Treatment Capacity”. Stated in the second paragraph is the purpose of the policy which is “to document current water use by Union County water system customers and quantify the amount of capacity that is available for system expansion.”

No capacity so lets expand

Sounds like a line from a Monty Python movie. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Complain about no water? Off with their heads!”

Landscape Irrigation

Too much irri'gatin going on...

So there you have it in black & white, the county cannot meet the existing customer demands for water, but our developer friendly commissioner majority wants new home construction to continue. Don’t forget, last year Commissioners Baucom, Mills and Pressley allocated the county’s remain sewer capacity. Those 13,000-18,000 homes will now have water permits codified in a promissory allocation ordinance. Union County’s special interest triumph again.

The Backwash

We currently have a finite amount of water coming from the Catawba River. Union County’s water processing plant, jointly owned with Lancaster County, has a capacity to pump 32,000,000 gallons of water per day. Since May of 2007, western Union County water consumption has exceeded our 18,000,000 gallons per day portion on number of occasions. (See graph below). In June of 2007 the county instituted water restrictions to curb customer use and lessen the strain on the county’s inadequate infrastructure for delivering water. The sad case is that even if we had more water, we don’t have the pipes, water towers and infrastructure to pump it to the consumers faucets.

Daily Water Demand (click to enlarge)

Daily Water Demand (click to enlarge)

The drought has nothing to do with the inability of Union County Public Works to meet demand.

The question of lawns versus jobs has been used to bolster the argument of the development industry to continue to build with no concern for the consequences. Union County’s water system currently has a customer base of 37,000, who are not getting the level of service that they were promised. Like wealth redistribution on the federal and state level, our liberal Commissioners are taking water away from you and giving it to builders who will make a profit off your sacrifice. This is fundamentally wrong on every level.

Over the last 10 years ((During the years of 2004-2006 the Board majority of Commissioners Sexton, Stone and Lane, removed builder bonus densities (Smart Growth) and enacted the APFO to begin to manage growth, but too much was already in the pipeline.)) , Union County’s commissioners have been manipulated by the developer community to subsidizing growth with tax dollars. The fact that Union County has the highest per capita debt of any county in North Carolina substantiates this claim. The new school system capital investment plan (CIP) just approved will mean another 7¢ on our tax bills.

So your taxes continue to rise, your property values fall as does your quality of life. Just how much do we have to sacrifice to the altar of special interests?

Numbed by Numbers

Union County Water Policy: {Click to view – right click to save} Note: file size 16MB

Make no mistake, the county consultant (HDR Engineering Inc.) was directed to produce a water allocation plan to match the rigged (( In September of 2007, the Union County Commissioners approved a sewer allocation policy that was only discussed in closed session, was not presented for a public hearing and was added as a last minute item on the Board agenda.)) sewer allocation policy approved last year. Without water, the sewer allocation is useless.

During his powerpoint presentation to the commissioners, he displayed a word-chart that indicated 1.9 million gallons per day of “surplus” capacity would be available for home construction, if Union County customers are only allowed irrigate one time a week. Can you believe it, he actually used the word “Surplus”.

The other chart stated that 4.8 million gallons per day surplus water ‘would’ be available if the county completely disallows all irrigation, in the Catawba basin. (See Graph)

I recommend the you review the Water Policy and please pay special attention to who gets water under the four ‘Priority Water Allocation’ plans. The consultant, hired and paid by the Commissioner majority, recommends the ‘A and B’ plans to be implemented. Imagine that.

Please note the time of year this policy change is being presented. Coincidence? Start writing those letters folks.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the county taxpayers and water customers were a priority for a change!

Mark your calendar and plan to trek down to Monroe. On October 6th, the Board of County Commissioners will hold a ‘Public Hearing’ on the new Water Policy. (Union County Government Center, Monroe, NC at 7:00PM October 6, 2008)

postscript

Sunday’s Charlotte Observer: Outdoor watering facing severe limits

From the story:

But the draft policy states that the demand created by projects – about 3.4 million gallons per day – would exceed the added capacity, even with residents under once-a-week water restrictions. So “mandatory water-use restrictions that permit no outdoor irrigation may need to be imposed to allow for this continued development,” the policy states.

 Posted by at 6:16 pm
Aug 012008
 

A
s November approaches and Commissioner Kevin Pressley’s term in office winds down, it’s tempting to write a review of his notable achievements as County Commissioner, a short list to be sure, but with four months still remaining, it’s too early to close the book.


Mr. Pressley continues to be the champion for the home-building industry in Union County, not even former Commissioner John Feezor (1998-2002), who was an executive of John Wieland Homes, did more to aid his fellow homebuilders.

Conflict of Interest

Government tainted by conflict of interest runs rampant though the Union County Commissioners, Planning Board, Board of Adjustment and the suspended Public Works Advisory Board. Mr. Pressley’s own decisions that pander to developer interests is bad enough, but his ‘developer friendly’ appointments to the advisory boards insure that corruption finds a way to every decision effecting the county.

Recently, Mr. Pressley hit another low point when he nominated for reappointment a planning board member whose lack of ethics became apparent county-wide when it was revealed, that he was member of the board of directors of Union County 2020, a political hit squad, purposely designed to skate by normal campaign finance laws, to promote their candidate and attack the opposition.

Mr. Pressley’s record to date, provides reoccurring instances of votes, motions and comments all in support of developer and builders interests. Whether to gut the APFO or conveniently allocate remaining sewer capacity to his friends, who some how find themselves in first place, regardless of the line. Last Monday’s (July 21, 2008) motion by Mr. Pressley and 3-2 vote to extend the sewer permit deadline beyond the county staff recommendation is a case in point.

What’s a little allocation among friends

Last fall, after a series of closed door meetings, the ‘Developer Majority’ of Baucom, Mills and Pressley voted to allocate county sewer resources without so much as a public hearing or review. They codified into policy, county assets to developers who supposedly had ‘promise to serve’ letters with no independent verification as their letter date or whether their projects would be permitted. Most had not been plated or approved by the county or municipal planning boards.

With the allocation policy enacted, developers ‘entitled’ to available sewer capacity must file a ‘Flow Application’ to begin the process and identify the specific amount of capacity they need. As an example, a project called Secrest Farms has been ‘in the works’ since at least 2004, initially designed to take advantage of now defunct ‘Smart Growth’ bonus density ordinance that gave developers up-to 25% more density in return for amenities like trees in the front yard. Currently the county’s sewer allocation has this project listed for 900 lots, a number that is not supported by current zoning and more than 100 lots in excess of what the developer can actually get, but the county has never the less reserved sewer capacity for 900 homes.

Per the County Allocation policy, developers were given a deadline of September 17, 2008 to file. When the appeals process took longer than expected, the County pushed by the deadline to January 30, 2009.

Ignoring the County Manager

“Let’s pay a professional $150,000 per year so we can ignore his advice”

The county staff recommended to the board that the deadline be extended to April 30, 2009 to accommodate those developers whose projects are taking longer due to a more exacting municipal zoning policies. Commissioner Pressley felt that just wasn’t long enough, because other complications like water availbility was still unresolved, so it may take longer for these ‘hard’ pressed developers to meet the deadline.

Pressley’s motion and resulting 3-2 vote to extend the deadline all the way until July 2009. Sixty-nine permits remain unprocessed, twenty-nine of the developers have not even contacted Public Works, until then 3 million gallons per of sewer capacity remains underutilized.

Put another way, to aid Mr. Pressley’s friends, Union County goes another year without drawing any revenue from this available capacity, another year of holding up new commercial projects like Mineral Springs downtown center and others waiting on the county sewer availability.

Oh, by the way, don’t buy Parker Mills’ yarn about no sewer availability until the diversion line from 12 mile Creek to 6 mile Creek is complete.

 Posted by at 5:23 pm
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