STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON MAY 4, 2004
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at 6:00 p.m. in the Commissioners' Conference Room of the Henderson County Office Building. The purpose of this meeting was a joint meeting with the Henderson County Planning Board to review the draft County Comprehensive Plan (CCP).
Those present were: Chairman Grady Hawkins, Vice-Chairman Larry Young, Commissioner Bill Moyer, Commissioner Charlie Messer, Commissioner Shannon Baldwin, County Manager David E. Nicholson, Assistant County Manager Justin B. Hembree, and Clerk to the Board Elizabeth W. Corn.
Also present were: Budget and Management Director Selena Coffey, Planning Director Karen C. Smith, Planners Josh Freeman and Nippy Page, Public Information Officer Chris S. Coulson, Tedd Pearce and Jack Lynch of the Planning Board.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and welcomed the members of the Planning Board. Prior to review of the draft CCP, Chairman Hawkins stated he’d like to address the memo received from Chairman Pearce regarding Highway #25 so the Board of Commissioners could give some direction to the Planning Board.
Chairman Hawkins stated that the letter from Chairman Pearce requested some kind of guidance from the Board of Commissioners, specifically on how to deal with the report that the Planning Board had gotten back from the consultant on the Hwy. #25 North Study. The requested action referred parts of the study back to the Planning Board for a detailed review following adoption of the CCP. He explained that the Planning Board and Planning Staff have a pretty full plate right now.
Chairman Tedd Pearce
Chairman Pearce stated that it’s one thing to approve a generalized text and concept of a plan that size, we’re talking 40,000 acres plus/minus, which is basically ten times the size of the Howard Gap study they did. It took six months to do that and most of it was the nuts and bolts of fighting over each individual lot, which one was included and which zoning, etc.
This is a recommendation that the consultant has made. Mr. Pearce felt it was not practical for them to define zoning lines that tightly and try to keep it from becoming a free-for-all at some later date for the Board of Commissioners if they don’t give it an adequate amount of study. Basically, they were willing to accept the report and forward it on to the Board of Commissioners with the understanding that the actual zoning parts of the study need to be studied in detail (each boundary line and each zoning district) by the Planning Board.
Chairman Hawkins felt that the Board should be able to give the Planning Board the additional time they requested.
Following some discussion, it was the consensus of the Board for Mr. Pearce to look at the study and develop a timetable for work on the study, breaking it into pieces and bring that plan recommendation back to the Board of Commissioners.
COUNTY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN (CCP)
Chairman Hawkins explained that the purpose of this meeting was for both Boards to take a first look at the draft CCP. He recognized Josh Freeman to give staff overview.
Josh Freeman reminded the Board that on March 3, 2003 the Board of Commissioners adopted a revised schedule for the County Comprehensive Plan. Among other things, that schedule established a public input process, directed the hiring of a project manager, and established a planned submission deadline of June 1, 2004. As of June of 2003 Mr. Freeman has been the project manager. Since March 3, staff and the Advisory Committee had been working on implementing the public input part of the process. They had conducted a citizen survey that sampled 2,000 property owners across the county with a very good response rate. They held 14 public input sessions or community meetings across the county, one in each fire district. They held a Latino community meeting to get the perspective of the Spanish speakers in our county. They held three public input sessions with the agriculture community. They have also used the “Designing Our Future” background information that they produced through their process. Staff is augmenting the CCP public input process with that information and several other smaller miscellaneous public input mechanisms that were carried out in the past, including the 1993 Comprehensive Plan public input process.
In January 2004, the Board of Commissioners directed that the CCP Advisory Committee and the Planning Board operate as a joint committee and they have been doing so since that time. They have been working very hard to produce the current draft of the CCP.
Josh Freeman stated that there were several other groups involved in the development of the draft document. The agriculture chapter was developed through a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. We received $8,500 from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program of USDA. That grant was administered cooperatively between the Planning Department, the Cooperative Extension Service, the Henderson County Soil & Water Conservation Service, and Land-of-Sky Regional Council. Land-of-Sky Regional Council and the Division of Community Assistance provided help on the housing and economic development chapters. Members of the community committee were consulted numerous times throughout the process.
The draft CCP document represents the hard work of the joint committee and there is more work to go. This is not the formal final recommendation of the joint committee. That will come on June 1, 2004. Mr. Freeman stated that Jack Lynch and Tedd Pearce were present to answer questions from the Board.
Tedd Pearce congratulated Josh and planning staff for the hard work they had put into the document. Jack Lynch stated that there had been a lot of cooperation between everyone who worked on the document. They didn’t always agree on the issues but they did come up with a consensus.
Josh Freeman reminded the Board that at a recent Commissioners’ meeting the Board of Commissioners established a schedule for the adoption of the document. He reviewed that schedule as follows:
June 1, 2004 Document submitted to the Board of Commissioners
June 1, 2004 Recommendations of the joint committee will be available on the Internet at the County Web Page and will be available in all the public libraries across the county.
June 7, 2004 @5:30 p.m. at the Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting, staff and the joint committee will formally present the document to the Board of Commissioners.
June 9, 2004 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. – there will be a special called meeting at which the public will have an opportunity to give their thoughts.
June 10, 2004 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – a second special called meeting at which the public will have an opportunity to give their thoughts.
June 18, 2005 9:00 a.m. – noon - a final meeting of the Board of Commissioners to discuss the document and hopefully adopt and/or give any final direction on modifications.
There will be another joint committee meeting on May 18. There may also need to be additional meetings of the joint committee.
Board Discussion of the document
Chairman Hawkins asked for comments from each Commissioner regarding the draft document. There will be much time for a lot more detail over the next 20 years. This is a fluid document. He stated that if the individual Commissioners had issues they would like to have addressed in the document, that they be funneled through Mrs. Corn, the Clerk to the Board.
Commissioner Baldwin stated that the Comprehensive Plan is nothing more than us taking a look at the past, assessing where we are currently, and trying to come up with a guide as to what we’re going to do in the future. He felt this document captures that. Planning is about process. He feels the Board of Commissioners now needs to see a summary and the implementation schedule. His confidence and emphasis is with the process.
He did echo Commissioner Moyer’s concern about the use of unclear language, stressing the need for more boldness.
Commissioner Moyer felt it was too soon to go into specific details. He had problems with the use of statements “consider” or “think about”. That is not a plan but rather a collection of things to study in the future.
He addressed the introductory letter dated April 28, stating there is a statement which he did not feel was in accord with what the Board directed – “please note that in accordance with the prior direction of the Board of Commissioners, staff will include with the final draft a report outlining significant items or recommendations that met with disagreement and may have been removed or substantially changed”. It was his understanding that these would be presented to the Board long before we get the final draft so the Board could consider them and give guidance in the final draft.
He stated that there are weak sections and good strong sections of the document.
Mr. Nicholson stated that staff had struggled internally. They had made some staff recommendations to the Advisory Committee and the Planning Board. Sometimes they agreed with staff and other times they did not. At the end of the day the Board will receive a document from the two Boards. There will be some things that staff would want to bring up to the Board for consideration. They would like to have Board direction on how to do that. Staff’s goal was to present staff’s comments when the Board received the final document. He was open on how to mesh those two items.
Ms. Smith addressed the timing issue, stating that if staff needed to do something sooner, they would get together and do that.
Jack Lynch stated that there were many differences from the very beginning. They took many hours to look at the differences and used consensus building techniques to come to agreement on many issues.
Tedd Pearce stated that floodplains was one item of disagreement. There were significant differences on how to proceed from there.
Commissioner Messer felt that the biggest problem might be with definitions in the language of the document, such as the definition for “affordable housing”. He feels we can get this plan done and get it done on time.
Commissioner Young expressed concern about reducing farmland or agriculture land and at the same time the need for affordable housing in our county. Farmland has become so valuable for housing developments or development that the land ends up being a “401-K” for the farmers. Many times their children aren’t interested in farming.
Tedd Pearce stated there was general guidance worked out but it needs refining. He stated that public input didn’t show a big problem with affordable housing. He also stated that what is considered “affordable housing” in Henderson County is not affordable housing in Idaho or Oklahoma. Every area has different “affordable housing”. It has to be looked at in relationship to the community, our land prices, etc.
Chairman Hawkins stated that we have a 1992-93 Land Use Plan, whether or not it was officially adopted. If you look at that plan, there were about fourteen items the Plan had in it to be accomplished. If you go back and look at it, Henderson County has accomplished 9 or 10 of those 14. The ones that haven’t been accomplished, Henderson County has no control over.
He stated that we need to be cognizant and realistic about the things we take on to do that we can do. We have little or no control over water and sewer and that’s a big determinant of development and growth.
He stated there are a number of action steps and recommendations that deal with tax breaks or incentives. He pointed out that in North Carolina we are not in the tax break business, that is strictly controlled out of Raleigh.
Chairman Hawkins stated that we need to consider housing for our older population. If our population continues to mature as indicated in demographics, we may need to look at this issue more in our long-range planning.
He felt that ordinances will be a strong part of the implementation plan but the ordinances don’t need to be text in the CCP. Some ordinances will have to be up-dated as part of the implementation plan, such as the Zoning Ordinance.
Chairman Hawkins raised the question of how much it would cost to implement this Plan.
There was some discussion of whether or not the Board will commit to small area plans. Organizational considerations were mentioned briefly.
Chairman Hawkins made the motion to adjourn the meeting at 7:17 p.m. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Elizabeth W. Corn, Clerk to the Board Grady Hawkins, Chairman