STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA                                                            BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

COUNTY OF HENDERSON                                                                                                               JUNE 9, 2004


The Henderson County Board of Commissioners met for a special called meeting at 9:00 a.m. in the Commissioners' Conference Room of the Henderson County Office Building. The purpose of this meeting was a workshop and public input session on the 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 Hembree and Clerk to the Board Elizabeth W. Corn. 


Also present were: Planning Director Karen Smith, Project Planner Josh Freeman, Planner Nippy Page and Public Information Officer Chris Coulson.



Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. and welcomed those in attendance.



Public input on the CCP was scheduled for this meeting, and at a meeting scheduled for the following evening. Chairman Hawkins discussed several recent zoning requests that dealt with the major thoroughfares and that type of philosophy being used in the planning document, given that the concept had not been agreeable within two recently affected communities. Josh Freeman stated that the CCP does promote the concept of concentrating commercial and community facility developments at key intersections, in part as a continuation of policy direction from the 1993 plan. He discussed the concept in relation to standard planning practices.


Chairman Hawkins also questioned how the sale of beer and wine, which is currently not allowed in the County, would play into future development of things like food stores and restaurants. Mr. Freeman answered that as policy stands, he did not believe it would be a factor. He noted that if the Board were to allow beer and wine sales in the County it would have a generative effect on commercial development, but the CCP does not address that.  


Public Input

1.                   Eva Ritchey – Ms. Ritchey stated that she did not feel the public had had enough time to review the documents and be prepared to make comments. The documents were not available to be pulled off the Internet until June 7th.


Chairman Hawkins stated that he believed the documents would be available online June 1st. Josh Freeman answered that the documents were on the Internet on June 1st, but some people did have difficulty downloading them due to the file size. He also stated that the CCP was available in the libraries, in the Planning Office, at CopyWorks, and on CD for $1.00. He answered several questions from the Board regarding the availability of the document to the public.


Ms. Ritchey expressed concern about how quickly the County is doing the public input process. She wished to have it noted that the cost for a color copy of the document was $127, the cost for a black and white copy was almost $30. She stated that while the draft CCP was a worthy work, it lacked the resources to make it work.


Ms. Ritchey specifically addressed disparities within the plan with regards to transportation, citing the need for better infrastructure. She stated that she had looked at a memo put out by Planning Staff, and if the Board really wants a Plan that will produce and provide, she requested that the Board adopt the recommendations of the Planning Staff. She discussed the merits of several of those staff recommendations. Finally, she suggested having a representative from the school system on the Henderson County Planning Board.  


2.                   Chip Berning – Mr. Berning stated that he did not wish to speak.  


3.                   Rick Merrell – Mr. Merrell congratulated the Board, Planning Staff and all volunteers for all the work that had gone into the CCP. He stated that he had spent 34 years marketing real estate in Henderson County, and what people buy when they come from other areas is our quality of life. The CCP could be the future to maintaining that quality of life. Mr. Merrell stated that the key issue in the Plan was that it was soft and suggestive, while the staff memo added backbone and strength. He encouraged the Board to pay attention to that memo. He also felt that throughout the body of the text, the following word replacements should be made: “should” replaced with “shall”, “consider” replaced with “do”, “support” replaced with “fully fund”, and “promote” replaced with “champion”.


Mr. Merrell briefly spoke to the housing element, stating that mobile homes are not affordable housing, they are predatory housing. Mobile homes depreciate in value like cars, and deprive the owners of equity buildup.      


4.                   George Shipley – Mr. Shipley stated that he was the past President of Habitat and the current President of the Coalition for Affordable Housing. He spoke to the housing section, stating that nothing in that section said the County was going to do something to alleviate affordable housing. He asked that the document contain action-oriented language. 


Board Discussion

Chairman Hawkins thanked everyone for their input, and stated that the Board would continue the dialogue on the subject. He stated that the Plan was not written as an ordinance, though a lot of ordinances would probably spin off of it in the future.


Commissioner Baldwin discussed the language in the draft CCP, stating that making the process more action oriented could be taken care of with the implementation schedule and the way that it is written. Commissioner Moyer expressed concern that if the implementation schedule just implements “consider”, it doesn’t solve the problem. Chairman Hawkins questioned where the implementation schedule currently stood. Josh Freeman answered that Staff would have the implementation schedule to the Board by the following Monday. He also stated that it would be available on-line Monday morning.


Chairman Hawkins stated that study of a Flood Plain Ordinance had already begun, and he thought that might be included early in the implementation plan. He also felt the Highway 25 North Corridor Study would be included in an initial implementation plan. David Nicholson noted that one thing he keeps coming back to is the relationship between completing the CCP and getting back to the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite discussion.


Commissioner Baldwin stated that the Board had the document as it had been submitted. They had requested staff’s perspective on some of the issues, and were now asking them to put together an implementation schedule. He questioned what the Board was asking staff to implement, the submitted document or the document with the memo calling for changes. Commissioner Moyer agreed that there were some key fundamental issues included in staff’s memo that would require some work to integrate into the Plan. Commissioner Baldwin felt the Board should come to a consensus on including the proposals submitted by staff following the meeting scheduled for the following evening.    


Commissioner Messer agreed that the Board should agree on an implementation schedule, but at some point the Board will have to look at the cost of implementing the plan. With regards to agriculture, the Plan calls for farmers to be able to keep some of their land preserved, but he questioned where the money would come from to help preserve it. He also expressed concern about affordable housing since the Board has no control over building materials.


Commissioner Baldwin agreed that whatever the Board adopts, they should be willing to fund. He felt they would be dependant upon the County Manager to make sure the resources were available to implement what they adopt, but it comes down to when they adopt it and plan to start implementing it. Commissioner Moyer expressed his concern about the Board’s willingness to fund this new plan when services already in place were not being funded.


Commissioner Young stated that this is just a plan, and something that will take a period of time to implement. He stated that affordable housing is not in Henderson County because of the cost of building and the cost of land. He had received several calls from citizens asking when the Board was going to put impact fees on builders and developers to help pay for infrastructure. He felt that would add to the cost of housing. He also spoke to the transportation issue, stating that the Board had very little control over transportation as it is controlled by the State. He expressed concern that the Upward Road project was projected to be completed in 2008 when it was supposed to be started in 2004.     


Jack Lynch addressed the Board, stating that Upward Road was on the TIP. All the TIP projects destined for a four to six year study period were up to a six-year study period. He discussed the Howard Gap Road and Cummings Road projects, stating that they are moving along rapidly. He felt that we needed to work hard with DOT, and noted that he talks to them about twice a week to keep the lines of communication open. Mr. Lynch also spoke to bus transportation, discussed the funding sources available and plans in place to retain those funding sources. There followed additional discussion about funding and future transportation plans.


Commissioner Messer stated that the industrial development zones in the plan are the industrial development zones we already have. He stated that the Board had recently approved another industrial area when they approved the Pepsi Cola Company going out Highway 280. That area is going to expand, as is Highway 25 once it has been widened to 5 lanes. The plan states that large commercial development should be located where water and sewer services are present. While he felt that idea was fine, in the past 20 years the County had let major developers control where water and sewer is because they’ve put it in. He also discussed impact fees because of the impact large developments have on infrastructure. He felt the County had to have a plan, had to stick to it and had to try to implement it as quickly as possible. 


Eva Ritchey addressed the Board on transportation funding. It was her opinion that Henderson County had not done everything it could do to put in a viable transportation system in Henderson County, and that the County was not totally dependent on the DOT. She wished to state for the public record, that she had met with the DOT and had requested an HOV lane for the I-26 widening. The DOT had indicated an unwillingness to do so. She questioned why anyone would be willing to spend $100 million without studying all the alternatives. 


Chairman Hawkins then discussed some of the wording differences between the staff memo and the draft CCP. He pointed out that even the memo contains language such as “cautious exploration” and “consideration of action”. He reminded the Board that this is a planning document, and there is a long time period for it. It will probably be reflected in a lot of ordinances, but did not feel you could make a county ordinance in the CCP.


Commissioner Messer spoke to the most recent Henderson County flood plain maps, stating that they had last been updated by the State in 1983. Karen Smith answered that a representative from the NC Department of Emergency Management had visited in January to evaluate the areas where we may have needed detailed studies due to fill and the like. That evaluation had uncovered no significant problem areas based on the old maps. The state had also indicated that we can use the old maps to get a program started, and when new maps come out we would be able to update ordinances.


Chairman Hawkins discussed the housing element, density as it applies to affordable housing and the need to have available sewer. To capitalize on infrastructure already in place would require expanding the density in most municipalities. He questioned the response from the municipalities on the possible increasing density in their jurisdiction. Mr. Freeman answered that he could not give the municipality’s response, as his team had not gotten to the point of having substantial conversations with Planning Boards and Councils. However, as a general rule most of the Planning Staff would agree that the municipalities have a role to play in increasing densities and that there were some ordinance revisions that would need to take place. Sewer is the most important component, but that must be matched with ordinance revisions to maximize the use of the sewer system. There followed discussion about the necessary involvement and cooperation of the municipalities.


Commissioner Baldwin stated that the community-based process would lead to additional input as the plans begin to be tailored to the small areas. He emphasized that the Board had changed the CCP planning process, with the result being more input from the residents of the County. There were 15 community meetings, and every municipal elected official could have come and participated in the meetings. He expressed that if bolder language needed to be added to the CCP to create a more action-oriented document, he was in favor of that. He also expressed that the implementation schedule needed to be action-oriented. He then requested that David Nicholson provide some projection of funding attached to the implementation schedule so the Board will know what they will be faced with each budget cycle.


Finally, Commissioner Baldwin stated that he did not wish to exclude input from the municipalities, but was not in favor of stretching out the process to allow further input from the municipalities. The research had been done, the Board had received good recommendations, and he felt the CCP should be adopted with the type of language that said the County would aggressively pursue implementation. Commissioner Moyer stated that he agreed, with the exception of the municipalities. The municipalities had been told that they would have a chance for input and that the County wanted a plan that was also acceptable to the municipalities. There followed discussion about how flexible the document was intended to be, its ability to change with future input, and the role of the implementation schedule with respect to possible municipal input.  


Commissioner Messer stated that he would like to know more about future plans, and would like to have one map from the municipalities that showed future annexation plans. Chairman Hawkins stated that the County had requested such a map, but had been unable to obtain such information. There was some discussion about which municipalities even had such information.


Commissioner Moyer stated that one thing that bothered him in the implementation schedule was that they showed the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite at 18 months. Karen Smith answered that they wanted to make sure the draft Zoning Ordinance as written fulfilled the goals of the CCP. She stated that the 18-month time frame was to allow enough time to complete the project, though she hoped it did not take that long.


Josh Freeman stated that in the discussed staff memo, they had not covered the myriad of “considers”, “explores”, “shalls” and “think-abouts”. In some places that type of wording is very appropriate, but in others he felt there was enough information to say something more explicitly. Commissioner Baldwin asked if Staff could go back through the CCP and make some recommendations on language. It was the consensus of the Board to have Mr. Freeman provide recommendations on some of the language in the draft.   


Additional Public Input

5.         Dick Baird – Mr. Baird stated that the draft CCP was a good document. He spoke about where the retiring baby-boomers were going to end up, and was concerned about the lack of elder-care elements in the plan. He also spoke to the ever present need to attract industry, and felt that going to the State to change Corporate Tax Laws was the only way that would ever happen. He expressed concern about the disparity of income between groups in the community, and felt that a larger retirement population would exacerbate that problem. Finally, he had great problems with the community input, stating that the wrong questions had been asked.



Chairman Hawkins made the motion to adjourn the meeting at 10:36 a.m.  All voted in favor and the motion carried.






Elizabeth Corn, Clerk to the Board                                    Grady Hawkins, Chairman