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.

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 Posted by at 3:57 pm

  12 Responses to “WCWAA – an uncertain future and still a target!”

  1. Mark D,

    This park being shut down is nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of acres across union county which have been declared “off limits” because of the Carolina Heelsplitter- of which only 6 living specimens have ever been found in our creek system.

    As I posted several years ago, there is a fellow in Mint Hill who started the entire heelsplitter movement, as an idea he hatched with his attorney friend in asheville. He wanted to stop a housing development from being built near his home and his attorney who was from California said the easiest way to stop any project is to find an endangered species on the land. And if you can’t find an endangered species, have the feds place SOMETHING on the endangered list that does live there. (this is why over half of California’s land cannot be developed, and housing prices are through the roof)

    So in summary- abusing and bending laws regarding water, flooding, and the heelsplitter, has become a favorite strategy of citizens AND elected officials in this area, including upstate south carolina. If you want to stop a project dead in its tracks, all you have to do is exploit rules regarding water. It works both ways- for land intended for public use AND land intended for private development.

    Frankly, even if part of those private landowners adjoining the park knew it was in a floodplain, that doesnt mean the park should have been allowed to make it flood even MORE. That’s like putting up a giant fan next to someone’s house in Oklahoma and blowing 90mph wind over their property 24/7, and then saying it’s OK because they chose to build their house in tornado valley and should expect high winds.

  2. Our Park, Our Schools, Our Kids–Need Your Vote!

    Dear Neighbors and friends of WCWAA, and youth athletics…..

    Many of us received the devastating message from WCWAA today. Because of the flood plain problem that originated in 2005, WCWAA’s future is uncertain, and our community park is in grave danger of shutting down!!!!

    Can you imagine our community with no WCWAA? My family moved to Union County in 2001. With two daughters and a son, my family has logged hundreds of hours at this park. I can’t count the number of times we have spent on the sidelines of a soccer game, in the stands of our baseball fields, playing WCWAA basketball, or Lacrosse! And thousands of you have your own stories to tell. We have to come together as a community to save our park!

    THERE IS SOMETHING WE CAN DO!!!!!!!

    As the message states, we need the support of our County Commissioners, and asks that we contact Commissioner Tracy Kuehler, as she is the liaison to WCWAA. (TracyKuehler@co.union.nc.us or via phone at 704-843-7117) Well, I called her. And please, you call or email her too!!!!
    This is what I learned:
    1. This problem has come before 3 different Commissioner boards since 2005. Everyone agreed that something should be done, but no one did anything.
    2. When Tracy Kuehler was elected in 2008, she made this a priority. She has kids at the park, just like we do. She researched the problem, contacted State agencies, and has discovered that there may be other options for us at WCWAA. There are no guarantees, but there may be options. The County staff is now following that. The current Board majority will work to do everything they can to save our park.
    Here’s the problem. Three of the five Commissioner seats are up for grabs, and the board majority may change. There is one person running who will absolutely exhaust all options to save our park —–LANNY OPENSHAW. Lanny was one of the founders of our WCWAA Lacrosse and he loves our park.

    The 3 candidates running together as a group live in the Eastern part of the County. Their kids don’t use our WCWAA. If they win, I have no doubt that they will NOT direct funding toward this problem. Jonathon Thomas, one of the 3, ran unsuccessfully in 2008, and is captured on video at a forum stating that “those people on the West have those Taj Ma Hal schools….” The 3 have repeatedly stated that they will cut the budget. We’re talking our SCHOOL budget! They have also expressed their disbelief that monies from the hospital would be used for parks and/or libraries on the “west” side. Need I say more?

    Am I making WCWAA a political issue??? You bet I am…because it is! The fact is, the people you elect on May 4th will absolutely control the next steps for our park…..and whether our schools are funded adequately…and if our kids will stay in neighborhood schools…and if we will have water and sewer…..and where our tax dollars will be spent..and if ethics policies will be enforced……It may not be pretty, but politics touch absolutely every part of our lives. The only question is…will you have a say in it?

    So go vote on May 4th…..better yet, vote at Early voting before you spend the day, Saturday, at WCWAA with your kids!!

    Vote early at Wesley Chapel Fire Department…..
    8821 New Town (between Crane and Providence)
    Saturday 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM
    Monday 4/22 – Friday 5/1 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM

    Thank you,
    Kristy Maher

  3. You mention Lanny and you mention Tracy to help the WCWAA. Then why Not Walker Davidson he supports the park and has children playing there. Vote Walker on May 4

  4. Ken: I completey agree with you. I met Walker Davidson for the first time yesterday and he was a breath of fresh air. He seems really bright, energetic, sincere and honest. I pushed him on the subject of the library, something that was near and dear to my heart since we need a library in this area of the county. Walker feels that he too would love to have a library, but the county simply can’t afford it at this point. So he stuck to his conservative views despite the fact that it is obvious we are missing a vital service for our community and that he risked not getting my vote. Yes, he will fight for the WCWAA because he sincerely believes in it, not like Larry, Moe and Curly who will say anything to get a vote (see their latest expensive glossy – one of many). Please work to elect Walker Davidson.

  5. I too support Lanny Openshaw and Walker Davidson for UC Commissioners. I believe both are men of integrity and want the best quality of life for the entire county. All the candidates say they are conservative but the only way to judge this is by their actions and I believe Lanny and Walker best represent the conservative values of Union County.

    Wyatt Dunn
    Town of Stallings
    Mayor Pro Tem

  6. Now maybe we can stop wasting taxpayer money on this newcomer park. I live in Wesley Chapel & hate to see this danger to the environment allowed to remain open.

  7. First let me say that we support the WCWAA. We love the park and all they do to support families and kids. Furthermore, we think it’s of utmost importance that a municipality provide for the recreational needs of it’s residents and we feel the WCWAA does this well in conjuction with the town. Additionally, the WCWAA is a source of pride for the towns of western union county.
    As a neighboring property owner, we have no problem with the noise or the lights. We bought our property knowing it abutted a park and we are fine with it. In fact we enjoy the happy noises of kids playing and cheering. However, we specifically purchased our house with the assurance that it is not in a flood zone and had never had flooding issues. This changed when the lower fields at Optimist were built and the flood plain filled in. Our yard now floods with even a small rain. We have had to replace our pool pump at the cost of over 500 dollars due to the flooding. We may be forced to purchase flood insurance by our mortgage company even though our property is not and never has been in a flood plane. Our property values have taken a big hit due to this new flooding issue.
    After reading the mass email sent by the WCWAA urging a letter writing campaign, I hope that our quiet voice can be heard. The letter sent by the park does not offer a resolution of any kind. It seems to suggest that members voice their support and continue with the status quo. Well, that is not an option because there are victims here. You can not break a federal law and ….do nothing.
    Please take into account the homeowners when considering this issue. WE ARE NOT ANTI-PARK. A federal law has been broken and it is not a victimless crime. We hope to have a voice in this debate.

    The above is from an email sent twice to the county commisioner with no response. This after she blogged that she “personally responded to all the over 400 emails I received about the park”. Still no response.

  8. derryyank, i agree.

    With all the issues regarding the heelsplitter and flooding if you locate anything near a creek, why don’t they just build a new park somewhere that ISN’T near a water source of any kind?

  9. I don’t think my post warrented sarcasm….I think some good zoning laws might help in the future, don’t have to avoid water sources altogether!!!

  10. Let’s cut through the chase.

    The park is not a Wesley Chapel problem. The park is in Weddington and this issue needs to be addressed by Weddington and Union County. Union County dropped the ball allowing the park to be built as is and should be held accountable for whatever it costs to remedy the situation.

  11. Well then why is it called Wesley Chapel Weddington? Sounds like Wesley Chapel needs to disassociate its name from the park. And if it is in Weddington then let Weddington take care of the cost of shutting it down. I’m also a citizen of Union County & the taxpayers doesn’t need the cost of the newcomers park. The park causing damage to peoples property & property values is Weddington’s problem. They caused the flooding problems let the newcomers deal with it.

  12. It dosn’t matter what the name of the park is. It can be called the ABC park. Weddington did not cause the flooding problem. Union County did by issuing the permit. Unfortunately, whether the park stays open or not, us Union County tax payers will end up footing the bill because the county dropped the ball.

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