STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON SEPTEMBER 16, 2003
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Mills River Town Hall, 5406 Boyleston Highway Suite #3.
Those present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chairman Larry Young, Commissioner Bill Moyer, Commissioner Charlie Messer, Commissioner Shannon Baldwin, Planning Director Karen Smith, Budget and Management Director Selena Coffey, Paralegal Connie Rayfield and Deputy Clerk to the Board Amy Brantley.
Present from the Town of Mills River were: Interim Mayor Roger Snyder, Council Members Linda Brittain, Wayne Carland, Lois Pryor and Jimmy Cowan, Clerk to the Board Sue Powell and Attorney Sharon Alexander.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Roger Snyder called the meeting to order.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Mayor Snyder led the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag.
Rev. Katie Bryant, Mills River United Methodist Church, gave the invocation.
Roger Snyder announced the upcoming CCP Meeting for the Mills River area. He urged citizens to attend that meeting to give their input. He then introduced the Mills River Town Council.
Chairman Hawkins introduced the Commissioners. He stated that the Board had supported the incorporation efforts of Mills River and congratulated them on being the newest municipality in the county. Because that incorporation had happened faster than anticipated, some adjustments had to be made to give the Town the best start. To do that, the Boards held a joint meeting in July looking at a number of ordinances the Town had requested the County continue to enforce. By statute, some ordinances expire immediately upon incorporation, some 60 days following incorporation, while others are not affected. Following the incorporation, the County sorted through 20-30 ordinances to determine how to apply those ordinances in Mills River as requested by the Town Council. Those ordinances have been on the Board’s agenda for the last two meetings, because to apply in Mills River, the ordinances had to be amended to include the now incorporated area.
A contract does exist that both Boards had already approved except for the fees and costs. Some of the dates on that contract may also be adjusted. A list of net expenses to the County, associated with Mills River incorporating, had been faxed to Mayor Snyder. Unfortunately, an explanation of those fees had not been sent, and Chairman Hawkins felt that led to some of the fees being misunderstood. What the county then did was generate a new chart that provided the best estimate on the cost to the County to enforce certain ordinances in incorporated Mills River. Not included on that list were three separate contracts that the Town of Mills River will need to secure with other County agencies: the Sheriff, Tax Assessor and Board of Elections.
Chairman Hawkins stated that it was not the intention of the Board to charge Mills River any more for services than what other municipalities are being charged. However, the areas that remain to be agreed upon are the costs for those services.
Jimmy Cowan stated that currently the biggest issue is in the area of Planning and Zoning. One reason Mills River wanted to incorporate was to control their own destiny and create their own future. He stated that while he realized there was no way Mills River could do that while the County continued to provide Planning and Zoning, it would take time for Mills River to accomplish a good planning process. Mills River had originally asked for two years, and felt that to be forced to come up with a good Planning and Zoning Ordinance in 30 days was asking too much.
Chairman Hawkins noted that the County had been very involved in some on-going planning in Mills River, particularly in the area of where sewer lines will be run. When that sewer line is introduced, it will almost automatically bring the possibility of high-density residential areas and industry. The county had anticipated updating the County’s Land Use Map as well as suggested zoning along where the sewer will go. A lot of the study that goes into preparing the land use map and the zoning maps has been done and is available, along with any other planning the county has done in the Mills River area. He stated that Mayor Snyder had suggested that the planning function be extended until January, and questioned whether that was what the council was asking for.
Jimmy Cowan stated that at the last council meeting, it had been discussed that January was probably the earliest feasible time. Without at least that much time, they would be faced with having nothing or having to enact a moratorium. He did not feel that either of those options was best for the citizens of Mills River, or for the region. January 1st would be the earliest possible date, but an extra month or two would be appreciated.
Chairman Hawkins stated that if the agreement was extended until January 1st, it would cut the $66,896 cost estimate for planning in half, since it was predicated on a 12 month cycle. He questioned how the rest of the Board felt about extending that agreement. Following discussion from each of the Commissioners, it was the consensus of the Board that an extension of the agreement for a reasonable time was acceptable. Commissioner Baldwin also stated that a Planner is available to the Town from the Department of Commerce, and that the middle ground would be for Henderson County to continue with business as usual but not get into municipal planning.
Roger Snyder provided some background information with regards to planning. Approximately a year and a half ago, a Planning Committee was formed. It’s chairman had worked with Karen Smith, sharing information back and forth. Because so much work has already been done, it would be a waste to not incorporate some of that work into the plan for Mills River. Because the incorporation took everyone off guard, they were asking for time to get their Planning Committee shifted into high gear, and to get some of the information the County already has as their basis.
There was some discussion of the sewer line. Commissioner Messer clarified that the funds for the sewer line were already in place, and had been for about two years. Chairman Hawkins stated that the County had been looking at a master sewer plan in northern Henderson County for several years, particularly in the area of the package plant near the intersection of Highway 191 and 280 because that area is upstream of the water supply. The County had been able to secure a $1.5 million dollar grant from the federal government and another $500,000 from the Clean Water Trust Fund at the state. The first place that line will go is to Mills River School, because there is a sewer problem over there. Prior to running the sewer line, rights-of-way must be obtained, and the County is about half way through with that process. Chairman Hawkins also discussed the presence of the Appalachian Elktoe Mussel, which had also created an environmental issue.
Commissioner Baldwin questioned the Town’s plans with regards to hiring a Planner. Wayne Carland stated that until day before yesterday, they didn’t have a dollar, so they didn’t have a sense of direction. Roger Snyder confirmed that up to this point people have been paying the rent and the light bill out of pocket. In their charter, they assumed that the county would contract with them for two years on planning and zoning. They had planned to appropriate money beginning in the third year for a Planner.
Commissioner Baldwin stated that there is a difference between municipal planning and county planning. He asked if the first step in their planning process was to take county ordinances, tweak them, and adopt those as Mills River Ordinances. Linda Brittain stated that they would like to maintain the current level of county planning, but not have the county start special things for the town. Jimmy Cowan noted that a planning committee had been in place for about a year, and eventually they do want to do their own planning. However, he was not concerned with a lot of change happening in the next year or two.
There followed discussion regarding the various concerns associated with the county continuing to perform planning and zoning functions in the newly incorporated town. Commissioner Baldwin posed several questions to the Council regarding possible situations where differences of opinion concerning zoning might occur. Commissioner Moyer spoke about how the Comprehensive Plan would assist in making such future zoning decisions. Commissioner Young stated that when the Town incorporated, it was an invitation to people to come to the Town of Mills River. He felt the Town should go ahead and take control of their own destiny.
Following additional discussion, Chairman Hawkins queried the Board to determine their feelings on extending the contract date. It was the consensus of the Board to extend the September 30th date to March 1, 2004 with respect to Planning. Commissioner Baldwin clarified the expectation that Mills River would have of County Planning Staff’s time. Wayne Carland stated that he expected the County to keep doing the same things it had been doing. Any municipal planning will be up to the Town of Mills River.
Jimmy Cowan stated that in the beginning of the incorporation process, one of the services discussed was police protection. Some residents felt that the area wasn’t getting the necessary police protection. There were early discussions with the Sheriff’s Department, and Sheriff Erwin had stated that he would continue to provide the same level of service following the incorporation as he had before. The only additional expense that would be incurred would be for any additional requests. Because he felt that the Planning function was similar, he questioned the need for the County to charge Mills River for that function. He stated that the Town was actually taking away the need to plan for Mills River, the County would just have to enforce what they’ve got.
Chairman Hawkins stated that the change the County would see would be a decrease in revenues available with which to run county government. The decrease is estimated to be about $1.1 million dollars that the Town of Mills River will now have to work with. There was discussion concerning the services offered by the county, and the amount of money now available with which to offer those services.
Roger Snyder questioned the clause in the contract dealing with the cost of litigation. He stated his objection, saying that “just because we are contracting with the County, I don’t feel that Mills River, if the Planning Department makes a decision which Mills River has absolutely no control over, that Mills River should foot the attorney.” He felt that was like writing the County a blank check to be cashed when needed. There was further discussion about who should be liable in the event of litigation stemming from Planning and Zoning decisions made in Mills River. Chairman Hawkins stated that litigation was not addressed in the contract. He suggested that the Town Attorney and the County Attorney address the matter and see if they could find some reasonable resolution.
Chairman Hawkins questioned the term on the services listed in the contract, with the exception of land use which will be March 1st. It was currently listed for four years, and he questioned whether that was what the Council wanted. It was the consensus of the Council to have those terms remain at four years. There was then discussion of the fees associated with the various Ordinances.
Selena Coffey explained how the expenditures and revenues for the Planning Function had been derived. She listed a number of functions performed by the Planning Department that went into derivation of the “Net Estimated Expense”. That expense was estimated at $58,170. At a previous meeting, the Board asked how the County generally costs out administration fees. One way is, as with grants, there is usually a 15% - 20% administration fee for administration of grants. Applying the 15% figure puts the estimated expense at $66,896. Ms. Coffey also spoke to several services that are provided to the other municipalities at no cost, and explained that those services would also be offered to Mills River at no cost. There followed much discussion on the various fees, and fairness to the Town of Mills River versus the other municipalities.
Roger Snyder noted that even if a Planner from the Department of Community Assistance started immediately, it would take six months to a year for that Planner to make recommendations. Following that, there should be community meetings for Mills River residents to give their opinions. He admitted that Mills River and the County got caught with the quick incorporation, but asked for help by continuing to receive the same level of service.
Chairman Hawkins asked the Board “if Mills River is wanting to pick up their planning function at the first of March, would anybody object to just taking the planning function off the block, assuming you’re gonna pick it up on one March…and going with the, with the $34,500 on those other top two ordinances?” It was the consensus of the Board to proceed with this option. Following some additional discussion, the Council also agreed to proceed. Mayor Snyder stated “I’ll agree to it, but just a note for the record, Mills River’s paying twice for the same services.”
Chairman Hawkins made the motion that on the original document, the first item #3 should remain the same at four years, under #5, the Land Use Ordinance would be for a period until March 1, 2004, the paragraph under Item E on page 3 both dates would read March 1, 2004, and #9 would be $34,500 annually for fees and costs. The motion was an amendment to the Interlocal Agreement. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Mayor Snyder asked for a motion for the Town to approve the Agreement. Wayne Carland made the motion and Lois Pryor seconded the motion. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Chairman Hawkins stated that the only remaining item was for the attorney’s to look at the litigation issue and bring back some recommendations.
Chairman Hawkins made the motion to adjourn the meeting at 9:35 pm. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Amy R. Brantley, Deputy Clerk to the Board Grady Hawkins, Chairman