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.

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))

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.

Facebook Comments
 Posted by at 1:31 pm

  26 Responses to “Boycott or Business as usual? 9 of 11 Union County Planning Board members skip meeting!”

  1. Mark; the planning board members must agree to serve to be on it. Lack of attendance is not serving and those who are highlighted on your list need replacement. Years ago, as a trip commission member, I was amazed by how few meetings any of us missed because we felt it was an honor to serve. Perhaps this commission does not feel that way. The TRIP commission members took the iniative in learning about our functions for the county.Most of our reccomendations were opposed by the threesome ruling the BOC at the timeand that eventually cause the dissolution of our committee.

  2. Why should the planning board even bother to show up?

    The new Marvin-mafia majority has already said it is their intent to stop all development in the county.

    So what is there for a planning board to do if nothing gets developed?

    Even without the Marvin-mafia’s stated view on development, it doesnt matter anyway since the USA is currently undergoing to largest collapse in commercial and residential development since the 1930s.

    I doubt there will be a need for a planning board for the next 10 years.

  3. Mr Scribe

    Great article–what an eye opener, for me at least. Hopefully, the new BOC and it’s Chairperson will enforce the the county ordinance and remove those who are not in compliance. Somehow I get the impression that will be the case.

  4. Mr. Raines:

    Far be it from me to open a window of reality into your dark and dreary world, but your facts are dripping with inaccuracy.

    You said, “The new Marvin-mafia majority has already said it is their intent to stop all development in the county.”

    Development in Union County is stalled for a number of reasons; the economic conditions being primary, but lets not forget your compadres, Baucom, Mills and Pressley who allocated all the sewer and water resources to their developer friends.

    Anyone with a new project has to wait in line until new capacity is created. We have millions of gallon of sewer under-utilized, bringing in no revenue, but reserved for ‘good ole boy’ residential projects that have been stalled by an inventory glut and dwindling demand.

    Actually, Mr. Raines, besides the taxpayers who have been screwed by carrying the cost of subsiding residential development these past years, it is existing homeowners who are trying to sell their homes are the ones suffering the worse. Home values are falling as foreclosures, low demand and tight lending policy drive down the price of their/our homes.

    So spare us your whining about new commissioners, Union County’s old guard brought these problems on all of us with unrestrained greed, shortsighted planning, displaced loyalty and good old fashioned prejudice.

  5. In the discussion of local county politics, I think it is most important to consider the new BOC majority’s ability to cleanly break away from the same old tired political see-saw of power we have watched over the past years as a true and fair measure of their sincerity and effectiveness.

    If the Planning Board is dismissed and reconstituted, as it appears it will be, any reconstitution had better make sure the entire county is represented through a broad spectrum of citizens that will be able to fairly represent, mutually respect and provide a fusion of ideas and vision for the future of Union County. It is time that our Commissioners, our business leaders, our civic leaders, our citizens’ boards as well as the rest of us learned to put aside differences of where one lives, recognize the diverse nature of our county and figure out a way to bring everyone to the table to find common ground.

    The true barometer and political test of this Board’s mettle and leadership will be the ability to mend fences, to plow into new ground and to move us forward. To provide real progress that will make our county stronger instead of allowing further languish in the rancor that has become tit for tat politics as we know it. Choosing sides, trading barbs and ripping each other to shreds are fairly easy tasks. Figuring out how to assemble a mighty and well oiled machine from many diverse parts and resources is the real challenge.

  6. Mark D,

    As you’ve admitted before you are a professional government planner. You are utterly incapable of seeing development through the lens of any camera except that which benefits you and your chosen profession.

    Anyone who wants to develop land without asking for your golden advice must be a hayseed redneck who either needs to be educated or thrown into jail for breaking whatever new zoning rules you decide to think up that afternoon.

    Of COURSE you think the reason for Union County’s woe is that they simply didnt have enough professional planners making all the decisions. You can’t help it. It’s like asking why the scorpion stung the frog as it allowed it to ride its back across the river.

    It’s just your nature. You’re talking your book, as they say in investment circles.

    You only want personal liberty and freedom for Union county residents and landowners as long as everyone has to get your permission and blessing first.

    That’s called tyranny.

  7. A law of averages can not yield a result outside the range of events being used. Therefore, it was not law of averages that caused this to happen. The probability of the event can only be calculated as more than zero if it is done using the liklihood of a particular event involving the combined liklihoods of the individual events, missing meetings. Such a calculation would yield, in this case, a probability that is very very small. In short, why the timidity on calling it what it was? I understand that your “Law of Averages” is tongue in cheek that allows you to get into the attendance records that you give, but do you have to murder the whole logical system to get there?

  8. Mark,

    This is not genuinely something difficult to grasp. When there is a deficiency of infrastructure, construction must be paused. Any sewage and water available should be utilized for higher tax base commercial property, not lower tax generating single family dwellings.

    Speaking of Union Counties "woe" as you described being caused by lack of professional planning. I will say without reservation this was definitely caused by poor planning; or lack thereof, along with greed. Whether it be professional or non professional is really of no significance.

    You heard the phrase "build it, and they will come", that is exactly what took place in Union County, now "we" will pay the price.

  9. Reid,

    You must be new to western union county.

    There is nothing more taboo around these parts than commercial property development. Any neighbors will fight it until the bitter end. Thus we end up with subdivisions located miles away from any shopping, ensuring that nobody can walk to a corner store, etc.

    We’re all stuck in gas guzzling cars to get anywhere.

    Trust me, I would have LOVED to have sold our family farm for commercial development instead of residential- we would have gotten roughly 400 percent more money for the land.

  10. How dare anyone insinuate that the government knows better than us how to develop our own land? There is absolutely no evidence that the government is better able to manage our land than we are. I mean, okay, without government planning we wouldn’t have interstates or highways or roads that are maintained or manage to even connect between adjacent towns (not to mention counties or states). And yes, we wouldn’t have the national park system or state parks… But my point is that any citizen with a plot of land to sell is inherently more competent and trustworthy than any government hack.

    Seriously, though, the problem isn’t that the local govt can’t more responsibly plan things out. The problem is that there’s a history of indidviduals getting into those positions and using that power to ensure that their land is taken care of and to heck with the county as a whole. It’s not a perfect solution people, but there have to be some people in position to effectively manage growth or you end up with what Union County has right now. But the citizens have to ensure the right people make it into those positions. And when they show themselves to be corrupt, you find a way to yank their butts out.

    Since when did being a Republican or a private land owner have the caveat that you surrender the idea of the public good at the door. It’s called civic responsibility. You know, “Country First” and all that. Or is it “Country First (unless it affects my bottom line)”? I’m pretty sure that was Halliburton’s motto.

  11. Darren,

    The problems with Union County’s growth issues (sewer and water shortages) have more to do with anti-growth agendas than lack of planning.

    A huge example is in the far reaches of northwest union county, in the Marvin/Weddington area. It is impossible to connect to sewer or water in those areas because there is no capacity left.

    However, Mecklenburg County has offered to sell excess capacity to Union County and allow developers/residents to tap into their system. This would have no impact on Union’s existing sewer or water facilities. The problem is that to tap into Mecklenburg’s system, a few pump stations would need to be installed because Union County in that area is a little bit lower than Mecklenburg so pure gravity sewers will not work.

    Thus we end up with the spectacle of The Woods, where they already had an agreement with Mecklenburg for their sewer, but the county commissioners refused to allow a pump station, because of an un-spoken rule the anti-growthers follow. (even though every new school built in the last 5 years has a shiny new pump station, as well as at least half a dozen around marvin and weddington, and over a hundred existing ones all over the county)

    Sewer shortage in western union county is a political issue, not a capacity issue. Anti-growthers are using a pump station ban in the same manner than anti-growthers use the carolina heelsplitter to stop development. (the original person who “discovered” the heelsplitter admitted in the minutes of a Mint Hill council meeting that he started the whole scam because he didn’t want a subdivision to be built behind his house, and he had heard that california residents used the endangered species trick to stop unwanted development for decades)

    Banning pump stations has essentially stopped all growth within union county, forever. The soil around here is so dense and clay-like that finding a place that will percolate is a nightmare, unless each home is built on a 10 acre lot that they can search for good soil and then build the house in that one tiny section..

    And finally, your statement that anyone who is a Republican or a private landowner is by definition AGAINST the “public good” is highly offensive, and points out quite clearly that you obviously have never owned land in your lifetime.

  12. Mr Mark R,

    Regarding Darren M., it’s obvious that the nut didn’t fall too far from the Dem Socialist tree.

    Luv, The Pig!!

  13. Mark R.

    I’m not in the western part of Union County, I am on the eastern side, and also own a farm. I feel assured this will blow minds of people on the western side of the county but my property tax actually was lowered last year. This will be kind of hard for the average person, including myself to understand. I sold 18 acres of my property to the Department of Transportation for the first interchange on the newly proposed Monroe By-Pass. You can imagine how this will effect my property value; being as the only construction allowed is around the interchanges. Think about what I am saying, my property is .8 of a mile from Highway 74, .7 of a mile from the main railroad track, .9 of a mile from a high school and .1 of a mile from a main water line. With all this in place my property values did not increase while the tax rate dropped, therefore my property tax decreased. Strange isn’t it!

  14. Reid,

    You just KNOW that the county and especially local towns are seething with anger at the Farm Exemption tax break for farmers.. You could have a couple hundred acres inside weddington, for example, that would bring in nearly half a million dollars in property taxes yearly if that dang farmer would just stop growing corn or raising cows on it!

    Instead, that farmer pays about 600 dollars a year in property tax due to the exemption.

    I do think, however, that with the downturn in the economy, local towns and the county government are suddenly going to become super-friendly towards development. I see the county announced they are going to lay off 8 percent of its 1,000 employees. And that’s just the beginning.

  15. You just KNOW that the county and especially local towns are seething with anger at the Farm Exemption tax break for farmers.. You could have a couple hundred acres inside weddington, for example, that would bring in nearly half a million dollars in property taxes yearly if that dang farmer would just stop growing corn or raising cows on it!

    I suppose people that feel this way will continue to let anger eat at their well being. Property that is used to provide food for people that are not able to provide for themselves should and must be taxed at a lower rate.
    I personally provide food for these people from my property and fully believe in this exemption. You have no problems in this country that can’t be overcome until you run out of food.

    The American people have always taken cheap food availability as something that is; and will always be, but this is far from true. When there is enough high value property pulled out of food production for development eventually a time comes when sufficient food will not be produced. There never has been; or can be a problem with the magnitude of no food for survival. Oil shortages contributing to high fuel prices along with any problems brought about due to a faltering economy is very small in comparison of no food for continued existence.

    The American people seem to have become muddled in their thought process, they no longer seem to recognize matters of significance until it is often to late. I would love to see a poll showing the percentage of people willing to sacrifice food in return for generation of tax revenue.

    People, please come in and give your thoughts on this post, I would love to see what you think about this subject.

  16. That is indeed very interesting Reid. But, I do not think that any of us would say anything to anyone whose tax decreased except, lucky you. The great problem with the last property tax increase is seen in the property of people like Mrs. Bolick on Twelve Mile Creek Road. She has lived on a small track there in a small 60’s style ranch on five acres for forty years. Her house sits in the middle of the track and there is almost a zero probability that she will sell the property in her lifetime since she is in her eighties. There has been a lot of development around her but nothing about the track has increased in value for her. Her tax bill quadrupled with the last assessment. That is a crime against a senior citizen who will probably never benefit from any land value increase.
    We need to only be able to increase tax value at the point of sale of land only, except for small percentages that are across the board for all property. If someone has held property for many years without development or change, they should be rewarded for that until a sale takes place. Mrs. Bolick and her fixed income should not be touchable in this case by the county.
    Programs that promote keeping agricultural land in production and off the development path should be promoted.
    Darren M was right in that good planning and civic responsibility were once pillars of the conservative agenda. Most twentieth century conservative thinkers and writers would have been appalled at what has become the new conservative agenda since the old South came to dominate the party. What is pushed as conservatism today is often a weird mixture of government benefits for us but not for those other people and contempt for anyone not like us. If calling me a socialist puts me far from that in your mind, then have a field day at it. I can do an easy backstroke through that torrent of illusion.

  17. Gentlenen,

    Does one get a farm exemption for growing tobacco?

    Last time I checked it didn’t have a whole lot of food value. Perhaps the nicotine in it has some value as an addictive drug.

  18. Reid,

    Let’s use the example of a farmer with 200 acres in weddington raising beef cattle. He might have 70 or 80 head of cattle, which would give him an income of 50 thousand dollars tops. after all of his living expenses he probably would have about 30 thousand dollars left over, and that’s before paying income taxes.

    Now contrast that with the going rate for land in western union county, which is anywhere from 60 to 100 thousand dollars an acre.

    That means that farmer could sell two acres of his land for the equivalent of about 5 to 6 years of work.

    If he sold 200 acres, that would be equal to would be equal to 500 or 600 years of farming labor.

    Now tell me- what would a 60 year old farmer in weddington do? Work another 60 years, or sell his farmland and get the money up front and retire in leisure?

    *THAT* is why people hate farmers around here.. because they are all getting insanely rich.

  19. It is extremely shortsighted to make such blanket statements as “*THAT* is why people hate farmers around here.. because they are all getting insanely rich.” If you actually dig into the details of what’s been going on, you will see that other reasons have popped up for people to disagree on how some land is being sold and bought. A land-owner using the power of the government to help him get a better price for his land isn’t ethical, though in many places that is how it’s done, especially Union County.

    Raines, stop making blanket assumptions. I’ve owned two houses so far. Yes, owned. As in, it is my property to do with as I please (within reason). Your statment about people hating farmers for getting rich is right up there with that statement about so many in the world hating the US because we are free. It’s meant to paint us in this wonderful light and make everyone else look like jealous malcontents. And it is an intellectually bankrupt argument. The people who have issues with some in the area selling their land for a profit don’t “hate” those people. They disagree with them and quite often probably feel that they are not being responsible with the disposition of their property. Does that necessarily mean the government needs to step in? No.

    But, I will ask again, what happened to the old spirit in the Red parts of this country about civic responsibility and community and doing the right thing? Does that spirit end the moment you can make a quick buck?

    And stop using the term “anit-growthers”, please. Again, if someone sees something completely insane going on, and tries to stop it, why are they suddenly anti-growth? Can’t they be termed pro-sanity? Given what unrestricted growth has done to Union County, please explain why you want this same growth to continue.

    That all being said, there is blame to go around both sides. Unfortunately, many only wnat to blame the one (govt) while giving a free pass to the rest. The world is not simply full of Angels and Demons, with the most self-righteous among us being privileged to decide who is who. Things are a tad more difficult than that.

  20. Mr. Darren M.,

    What is the responsible disposition of one’s property? If I should decide to sell my farm, what is the proper spirit vis a vis “civic responsibility and community?” If I am a willing seller and I enter into a contract with a willing buyer and that contract is devoid of any political favors or influence, complies with local zoning ordinances and all state laws, what business is it of yours or anyone else? It appears to me that you are jealous of anyone who might profit from his or her circumstances regarding property ownership.

  21. Pierre,

    There are only two “civic responsibility and community” choices you can make with your farm. You can either continue to farm it until you die of old age, so that people living in nearby subdivisions can enjoy the scenic vista of your pastures and convince themselves they are living in the county, OR you can donate it to the public for a park.

    Anything else is considered selfish, according to Mineral Springs mayor Rick Becker.

  22. Mr Mark R,

    If BHO has his way regarding Death Taxes none of my heirs will be able to enjoy the benefits of their labor or that of the 5 generations that preceded them. They will be forced to sell the property to the highest bidder merely to pay those taxes. What most people don’t realize is that land is taxed at the “highest and best use,” not at how the land is currently being used.

    I know what my options are regarding the future of my farm, unfortunately, most of them do not look good. I could grant a conservation easement, but that ties up the land in perpetuity. Other options are: sell, take a 1031 exchange and buy a much larger farm elsewhere; or, sell, pay the capital gains taxes and go play golf. The last two possibilities are unlikely in the current economic environment, and, besides it would mean that I would be selling my heritage–that is something I refuse to do. Even the PM of WC, with his “Odumbo” watch, and others of his ilk, should be able to appreciate the significance of heritage in relationship to a particular piece of land. What I won’t do is donate the land to the county so folks can say, “What a pretty view.”

  23. Aubrey,

    I’m the one that explained in a newspaper article exactly what was taking place when the county decided the need to reevaluate property every 4 years instead of 8 as require by state law. I said this was an under the radar tactic to increase tax revenue for a financially unstable county. I also said there would be people selling property to meet their tax obligations. Everything I wrote is now in the process of taking place, I am terribly sorry to say. I knew people owning property in western Union County would be paying unbelievably higher property taxes. I hate to say this but actually feel the people on the western side were targeted and new property values would skyrocket on the western but not the eastern side. I personally consider this a purposeful targeting procedure to extract the most money possible from a select number of taxpayers, this appears to be working as planned. The county is pulling high tax revenues from people they feel caused the burden of extreme debt to their county from overgrowth. When you think about this it makes pretty good sense to officials needing money for operation of Union County. When you are in debt as Union County is, you look for any possible means of extracting money from your taxpayers. They are the only viable source of solving this financial dilemma, any other company operated as this county would be in bankruptcy court. They do not have the luxury of demanding money from citizens to bail themselves out from poor business practices.

  24. Pierre,
    I’m not sure if it is your normal tact, but you’ve proven one of my points. Because I disagree with individuals being able to do anything they wish with their property, regardless of the consequences to the community, you assume I have some negative feelings about someone making a profit. Once again, you’re the wonderful, innocent person making a profit, and I’m the jealous malcontent. I can’t speak for you, but the idea of someone simply making a profit doesn’t raise any sort of jealous feelings. If the person is being a responsible member of the community, I’m all for it.

    If I were to psychoanalyze the response of you and your fellow thinkers, I would conclude that you are the ones that resent those who’ve made a profit (because it wasn’t you), and now you either see or project a chance to cash in too. You then turn on those who you perceive as resenting you, though they may have no feelings towards you at all.

    There are those of us in society that know the value of money, but don’t see it as the ultimate goal. Instead, we try to appeal to the better sides of our spirits. You ask what I mean by civic responsibility. Ask a few of your friends in the VFW. I’m sure some of them understand that, beyond our written laws, there are common sense things that you shy away from. Many in the financial sector were doing what was "legal". Would you like to claim that they bear no responsibility for what has happened?

  25. Mr Darren M.,

    You still don’t get it. I do not wish to sell my farm. I merely want to be able to pass it on to my heirs without unduly encumbering the future disposition of the land. They want to continue the farming operation on the same land that is so much a part of our family’s heritage. This may not be possible because of tax laws and the stated intent of the incoming administration. What you appear to not be able to appreciate is the connection that exists between the land and those who work it.

    Those of us who derive our livelihood from the land have a direct vested interest in preserving that land. Failure to protect watershed, manage timberland and engage in soil conservation decreases the value of that lands ability to provide income. By doing these things one protects the environment and the adjoining properties. To do otherwise is to commit economic suicide.

    You still have not defined what "…being a responsible member of the community" entails. Define "..to appeal to the better sides of our spirits." Once again, define your concept of "civic responsibility." Lastly, define those "common sense things that you (meaning I) shy away from." Simply stated, all these terms and phrases lack any objective definition, but are vague and subject to the world view of the individual attempting to make that definition.

    Right now I am cash strapped, will you accept a nice fryer and a dozen eggs for my psychoanalysis?

  26. Nah, the analysis is free. That is, if you’re willing to take a handout.

    I have no problem with what you are doing. What most civic minded people have a problem with, though, is the idea that growth should be unmanaged, regardless of what it does to the land and/or community. Unfortunately, the best system we have right now to do that is an imperfect one.
    I understand the connection. I’m sure there are many auto-workers who’ve been doing that for a couple of generations who suddenly find themselves left behind as times change. I grew up in that area, so I have as good a feeling for the connection you speak of as most. But wanting things to be passed on isn’t the same as deserving for them to be passed on.

    I will say this. I hope that, within reason, you can pass on your land and livelihood to your offspring. But that is not something the government is supposed to make special dispensation for. This connection with the land that you have is unfortunately not a legal term. Sometimes I wish it could be. I don’t want my parents to ever have to sell the land they live on. That’s where I grew up with my brothers, and it’s where they’ve lived for a long time. But the world is bigger than us, and our conerns aren’t the driving force in this society.

    Civic Responsibility means that you try to contribute to your society and community and adhere to its laws. There are some in Union County’s govt in the past who did not share that view and used their power to wield influence or gather wealth at the expense of the county’s land and infrastructure.

    Let’s see, what other simple concepts did you need me to define. I admit I lost track.

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