Mar 102016
 

Allowing Beer and Wine sales in Union County, has only one purpose. To allow developers skirt the more substantial zoning requirements  of western Union County towns and develop under laxer County zoning standards.

Look at the map below and all the yellow spaces surrounded or adjacent to the blue areas indicting municipalities, these “donut holes” will be the areas where commercial developers will concentrate. Sure there will be a gas and go stations, maybe a small grocery store in southern and northern extremes of  Union County, that will begin to sell beer and wine. It will be more convenient.  But if you are familiar the recent Raley Miller annexation/commercial development project on Rea Road, where the developer completely ignored Marvin zoning requirements, was rejected then went back to the county.

Folks, the timing of this referendum is NOT coincidental.

Most of the towns do a better job of reflecting desires of their citizens. 1

Recent Boards of Commissioners don’t have the best record of upholding county zoning. There was a spot zoning2 approved a few years ago near Monroe. They’ve allowed high density development near Airport road where they permitted the developer to exceed county density standards. When it comes to “Conditional” zoning almost everything becomes negotiable and all the developer to elected official communication does not see the light of day.

 

Beer & Wine in Union County

source: Charlotte Journal

 Posted by at 12:44 pm
Jan 082009
 

The Union County Planning Board didn’t walk out of talks about how to reorganize county advisory boards. Eight of the nine members simply didn’t show up.

Board Chairman Robert Allen, the only regular member to attend Tuesday, canceled the meeting because the panel couldn’t make its five-member quorum.

It’s the first time in more than 25 years the board adjourned because too few members were present, county spokesman Brett Vines said.

via Protest? Planning board misses meeting – The Enquirer-Journal.

A
t Tuesday’s regularly scheduled monthly Union County Planning Board meeting, only 2 out the eleven 11 appointed members showed up for work.

This occasion has upset some people who evidently have the gall to expect a modicum of professionalism from our appointed boards. But, lest not we forget how these board members were appointed, in block by our previous ‘developer-indebted’ commissioner majority; Messieurs Baucom, Mills and Pressley. So if they were to boycott a meeting for some reason, is it any surprise they’d do so like a school of mackerel.

I am sure this absenteeism, akin to say the ‘Blue Flu’, had nothing to do with the intense conversation last Monday night after the Commissioners meeting between Mr. Baucom and Planning Board member Don Kerr.

You know Don Kerr, the first mayor of Marvin, AG Board member and corporate founder of Union County 2020, the campaign law skirting organization funded by our stellar old guard luminaries to support candidate Jonathan Thomas during the last election, in part by big dollar mail campaign trashing other candidates.

No Walkout – just the law of averages

After pondering this issue, I think I have an answer as to how this happened – it’s quite simple actually.  The reason 9 of 11  Planning Board members missed Tuesdays meeting was due to the law of averages not a protest as you may assume.

It was only the matter of time and here’s why.

The attendance record of the current Planning Board has been abysmal and when you consider the number and frequency of attendance failures by 73% the board members, it is easy to see how Tuesday could happen.

The following table is the attendance record for the last 12 monthly meetings. It speaks for itself. ((The attendance of board members is public record and published on the Union County website))

MEMBER TOWNSHIP MISSED MEETINGS
Allen Vance 17%
Greene Alternate 17%
Kerr Sandy Ridge 42%
Simpson New Salem 33%
Williams Marshville 42%
Boggs Monroe 58%
Cox Buford 17%
Starnes Jackson 29%
Howie Jackson 60%
Medlin Goose Creek 33%
McGuirt Alternate 50%
Wooten Lanes Creek 58%

* The highlighted members could/should be removed for failing to meet attendance requirements stipulated in the County Ordinance:

From the County Ordinance concerning Planning Board attendance:

(d) Regular planning board members may be removed by the Board at any time for
failure to attend three consecutive meetings or for failure to attend thirty percent
or more of the meetings within any twelve month period
or for any other good
cause related to performance of duties. Alternate members may be removed for
repeated failure to attend or participate in meetings when requested to do so in
accordance with regularly established procedures. Upon request of the member
proposed for removal, the Board shall hold a hearing on the removal before it
becomes effective*.

* Enforcement  falls on the Board Chairman to enforce.

So much for the mighty ideals espoused by Mr. Baucom, Mr. Mills and the certain vocal Planning Board members as they speak of how important it for the people of the townships to be represented.

An empty chair speak volumes does it not?

To the question of board effectiveness;  if 82% attendance figure equates to 9 members or a member representing each regular seat on the board, then only twice (2) in the last 12 monthly meetings did Union County’s Planning Board actually meet their responsibility. Ten out of twelve times,  some townships went unrepresented.

Monthly Meeting Member Attending Percentage
November 2007 45% †
December 64%
January 2008 82%
February 64%
March 64%
April 82%
May 73%
June 64%
July NM
August 55%
September 55%
October 45% †
November n/a
December NM
January 2009 18%

† 45% equates to 5 members, the minimum needed for a quorum
NM  – No Meeting Scheduled

Poor attendance by the current board members is not the fault of anyone but the members themselves, the 3 commissioners who appointed them and the Planning Board Chairman who has allowed this affront to taxpayers to continue.

Appointment by township is deeply flawed for a host of  reasons. That being said, the Planning Board is inherently a very technical board, a board best served by people who have the time and interest to be educated and then participate for the benefit of  Union County. To do less is short changing the hard pressed taxpayers through out the County.

As a disclaimer of sorts, let me inform the reader that I was a Planning Board member for two years (2005-2007) and seated during the Board restructuring two years ago. I have been very vocal then and now against township representation.

 Posted by at 1:31 pm
Dec 202008
 

T
he holiday season is a busy time, as we all know. I didn’t want too much time to pass without commenting on the marathon Commissioners meeting last Monday night (Dec. 15, 2008), which didn’t end until 1 AM.

What could take so long you may wonder? Well, 26 agenda items, many controversial, takes a while to wade though imagine how long the meeting would have gone with a seven or nine member board! There was a closed session called at the outset and a number of public speakers, including the Scribe, who spoke to the Commissioners about the hot topics, the conflict of interest form and restructuring of the Planning and Board of Adjustment.

Disclosure – Mills does the same song and dance

The conflict of interest form (aka ‘financial disclosure’) raised quite a bit of rancor. Commissioners Mills and Baucom pounded the same tired arguments as they have, the last two times the Board examined this issue. First Mr. Mills mis-characterizes the form, pleads for Board to SLOW down, be reasonable and then asks questions which have little or nothing to do with the form.

As presented, the Conflict of Interest form asks the applicant to list the businesses that he/she own in Union County and secondly, property interests owned. Requiring a disclosure reveals to public scrutiny, potential conflicts that hereto now were kept obscured. Conflicts that in the past have colored the votes of many of  Mills, Baucom and Pressley’s appointees, but those of past boards as well. To listen to Mr. Mills, you might wonder what a conflict of interest actually ‘is’, fortunately the state law is specific. See Owens: Conflict of Interest

Commissioners Mills and Baucom now and in past votes, spoke of how the forced disclosure would prevent qualified people from applying. Gaging the some of their choices, we can only hope. The prospect of an inquisitive press linking a Commissioner to the same LLC’s and LLP’s of their appointees would be worth the price of admission. Not to be nixonesque, but people have a right to know if their government and officials are corrupt.

Trust but verify Mr. Kerr. ((Planning Board member Don Kerr (of Union County 2020 PAC fame) in his comments to commissioners said the people you have to watch are those who don’t trust anyone. That goes on my list of 2008 most laughable comments))

The Great Township Debate redux

In April of 2007, the Baucom, Mills and Pressley commissioner majority reorganized the County Planning Board into appointment by township. ((In interest of fair disclosure, the reader is advised that the Scribe was a member of Union County’s Planning Board from 2005 to April of 2007)) How typical of Parker Mills to proclaim townships as the fairest means of representation, when the opposite is true. Parker is not alone, even well known Planning Board member made the same assertion during public comments.

What we are hearing is more a case of the old Union power structure trying to maintain control by equating acreage to population.

The following chart shows townships and the prevailing imbalance:
2008dwellingsbytownship001

Reader Note: Three (3) townships account for 71% (48,977 dwellings) of the all the dwellings in Union County and have only 3 votes on the Planning Board and the remaining six (6) townships which only account for 28% (19,771 dwellings) have the majority or 6 votes on the board.

uctownships550

Not only are the townships of dissimilar geographic size, the population as measured by dwelling unit per township is even more disproportionate, further illustrating an effort by the past majority to magnify the influence of the special interests.

As further evidence of design and intent, the previous Planning Board had 3 newcomers as members; the current board has none. In fact, while professing the fairness of township-based appointments, Mr. Mills, ever the hypocrite, appointed two members who live in municipalities, flying the face of his own words when he argued that so much of western Union County is under municipal control, unincorporated Union County citizens were not represented.

Developer Friendly Commissioners begets
a developer friendly Planning Board – The Law of Crony and Effect.

In light of recent history, would you be surprised if I told you that the current Planning Board has not made a single decision that effects eastern Union County, ((Excluding subdivision authorization — there have been a few small subdivisions approved))  instead they have favored the developers and builders over Union County residents with votes to hobble the APFO ((Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance: Enacted in October 2006, requires adequate student capacity be available or in process before new subdivisions are authorized))  and tailor Union County’s cluster subdivision ordinance to maximize the developers profit margins, oftentimes on the backs of the taxpayers. (See Union County Debt per Capita)

In the last year, our Planning Board voted to move payment of the APFO mitigation fee from Building Permit (the beginning) to Certificate of Occupancy (the end) — the permit needed before closing with a buyer.  Making this change completely defeats the purpose of the APFO, which was designed to time new development with available school capacity. The voluntary mitigation fee was meant as a safety valve, to allow the impatient builder/developer to buy school capacity in areas where some capacity was available.

Score this one for the builders. Builders 1, Homeowners 0.

Also this past year, the Planning Board voted a bonus for the subdivision developers when they removed the requirement that 50% of a subdivisions common area had to be out of the flood plain. This feature was designed to enhance the value to homeowners by requiring the developer to dedicate usable land for common area. Experience had demonstrated that some developers were buying non-buildable land to increase their density and then in turn, designating it as common area, oftentimes of limited use to the subdivision homeowners.

Score this one for the builders: Builders 2, Homeowners 0.

There’s more. The Planning Board voted to reduce the side, front and rear setbacks ((A Setback is the distance from the property line a structure can be placed. Current setbacks are 40ft front, 15 side and 40 rear. The Planning board voted to reduce it to 25ft, 10ft, 30ft respectively)) basically allowing a developer to place the houses even closer together. The infrastructure cost savings to the builder in piping, driveways and road building is substantial. You the homeowner, lose privacy, property value and risk reduced fire safety by closer proximity. The cluster subdivision ordinance allows the developer to build homes on half acre lots to maximize open space, lessen impervious surfaces and economies of cost in return for amenities and value to the homeowners.

Score this one for the builders too: Builders 3, Homeowners 0.

There are a few more examples, but I have proved my point. The above subdivision text amendments were brought by the same developer, who has been looking for ways to circumvent Union County’s ordinances since they failed to be grandfathered under the builder’s bonanza called Smart Growth,  three years ago. ((Smart Growth subdivision ordinance was rescinded in 2005. The ordinance gave developers up to 25% more density for giving homeowners amenities like street trees, walking trails, clubhouses etc. — something most would provide anyways. In reality, it was a gift to campaign contributors.))  With just a couple of exceptions, none of the changes authorized by the Planning Board were enacted by the County Commissioners. Public outcry and the current lawsuit against the APFO prevented the Commissioners from approving the changes. ((How ironic, that the lawsuit against the APFO saved the APFO. Had the builders left it to Kevin Pressley and the other developer indebted commissioners, they would have voted the APFO out by June of 2007))

Cry for us Eastern Union

The sad fact for western Union County residents is likelihood of history repeating itself. Five years ago, a Board of Adjustment ((BOA members: Dan Johnson, Ruth Arant, Leroy Pittman, Everette Medlin and Bruce Walters. See Union board approves controversial Wal-Mart )) without a single newcomer, voted to permit the building of a Wal*Mart in the Somerset subdivision on Rea Road. The pleadings of local residents fell on deaf ears and after years and $300,000 of their own funds, they finally defeated the Wal*Mart in court. Some say this was the beginning of east-west animosity.

I am not equating our current Planning Board members with that infamous Board of Adjustment, but the disservice of putting financial welfare of builders/developers ahead of ensuring fair value to the homeowners and taxpayers is absolutely wrong. The Planning Board must speak for both the current and future residents, demand sound ordinances and fair zoning, which isn’t to say that Builders and Developers deserve any less, but it is the greater good of the taxpayers that government must serve.

As it was 5 years ago, it is the UNREPRESENTED western Union County resident that pays the price for cronyism and the surest way to perpetuate cronyism is to rig the system — the way townships do.


Scribble: There was much more to that Commissioners meeting, which I will cover in my next post.

 Posted by at 10:10 pm
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