STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
COUNTY OF HENDERSON JUNE 10, 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 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 B. Hembree, County Attorney Angela Beeker and Deputy Clerk to the Board Amy Brantley.
Also present were: Budget and Management Director Selena Coffey, Planning Director Karen C. Smith, Project Planner Josh Freeman, Planners Anthony Prinz and Nippy Page, and Public Information Officer Chris S. Coulson.
CALL TO ORDER/WELCOME
Chairman Hawkins called the meeting to order at 6:00 p.m. and welcomed those in attendance.
COUNTY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN (CCP)
Chairman Hawkins made the motion to go into Public Hearing. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
1. John Antrim – Mr. Antrim spoke in his capacity as the Chairman of the Apple Country Greenways Commission. The Commission had reviewed the recreation element of the CCP, and requested a wording change. The wording as published was “consider forming a community and regional greenway network.” The requested wording was “form a community and regional greenway network.”
Mr. Antrim also stated that as an Etowah resident, he was pleased to see the small area studies dealt with in the implementation schedule. He hoped that element would remain in the plan.
Chairman Hawkins questioned whether the current Interlocal Agreement covered Mr. Antrim’s concerns. Mr. Antrim answered that the concern was more with the decisions of future Board’s regarding greenways and the need for revision even with that current agreement.
2. Richard Alman – Mr. Alman expressed his displeasure with the speed at which road paving occurs in the County, specifically with regards to the Highway 25 North project. He discussed two projects of particular interest to him: the straightening of the intersection of Erkwood and Shepherd and the extension of Grove Street south to Old Spartanburg Highway.
3. Chuck McGrady – Mr. McGrady is the owner and director of Falling Creek Camp. He stated there was much in the Plan that he would recommend, and appreciated the community planning process. He noted that there were a few missing elements regarding items such as public safety and libraries. At a previous meeting the Board had directed staff to look at the following wording contained in the plan: consider, may, study, and similar wording. Once those recommendations are received from staff, Mr. McGrady felt he would be better able to respond to the plan. He stated that the plan was worth doing right, and the Board should take the time necessary to adopt the best possible plan.
4. Lee Luebbe – Ms. Luebbe spoke on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Henderson County, on positions that the League had held on National and local levels that were relevant to the CCP. She addressed the re-write of the zoning ordinance, stating that it was the heart and soul of what would guide the Board and the County in the future. She stated the League urged the Board to rewrite the ordinance once the CCP was adopted. She also addressed recreational space requirements within land development ordinances, as well as integrating recreation to the transportation plan and educational facilities. She stated the League stood in strong support for that collaborative effort.
She spoke to the reuse of abandoned railroad lines to be used for greenways or for tourist lines. The shortage of greenways would seem to be a more appropriate use and further add to the quality of life in Henderson County with less negative impact on air quality and a more effective way to add to quality of life for physical fitness. She also spoke to the consideration of a sedimentation/erosion control ordinance and a flood hazard prevention ordinance. The League strongly supported both of these as must haves to protect the soil and mountains for future generations.
Though the League had no position on housing, she commended the Planning Board, the Advisory Committee and all who worked on the plan for including that essential component in the plan. She reiterated some of the missing elements in the plan such as health needs, library and public safety.
5. Eben Franz – Mr. Franz is a member of the Faithlink Taskforce for Advocacy and Secretary of the Affordable Housing Coalition. He commended John Freeman and his team for their time and energy in producing the four drafts of the plan. He also thanked the members of the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners for the time they had given to its attention.
He stated that with respect to affordable housing, nearly 5,000 low-income, disabled, elderly families live in substandard, overcrowded rental housing. HUD says rent should not exceed 30% of earnings. Single moms pay up to 60% of their income for housing leaving little for food, clothing, transportation, child-care or other needs. Local housing agencies use all available federal and private funds to help, but they are only able to scratch the surface.
The housing section of the plan reflects the growing short of affordable housing. It recommends many things the County could, should and perhaps will do to ensure the availability, affordability and livability of housing. Some of those items included establishing a county building code to eliminate substandard rental units, establishing a fair housing code to protect minorities, development of a strategic affordable housing plan, creation of aesthetically acceptable manufactured housing parks and multi-unit housing accessible to infrastructure.
He also spoke to the housing trust fund used in Buncombe County, where a substantial commitment was made out of County tax dollars to fund individuals and programs seeking to build or occupy acceptable low-income housing. The funds are paid back at low interest and are recycled over and over again without additional need for tax dollars. He spoke to more action oriented wording, and the inclusion of a commitment to funding.
6. Jim Neal – Mr. Neal echoed previous comments concerning the use of words like consider, study and may. He felt tightening the wording up was the right thing to do. He also felt it was right to put in a schedule and assign responsibility for each item. He urged the Board to take the time to do the Plan right, and then implement it.
7. Gayle Stepp – Mrs. Stepp stated that she is the wife of a local farmer, growing apples and berries, and having two greenhouses. She addressed the need within the County for another place where farmers could go to sell their produce. She pointed out the use of the parking lot at this building on Saturday mornings for that purpose, but stated there should be an additional place to go during the middle of the week.
Commissioner Messer noted that the Board had recently rezoned a parcel of land on the Old Spartanburg Road for just that purpose.
8. Raymond Ward – Stated that he had been unable to read the whole Plan, but based on what he had read he questioned where the meat of the Plan was. He spoke specifically to floodplains, stating that 40 – 60% of the County’s farmland was in the floodplain. If the Board allows residential development in the floodplain, young farmer’s will not be able to compete with developers in buying the land. He spoke to the flooding he had seen in his lifetime.
He also questioned where the funding was going to come from to implement the CCP. He expressed concern that taxes keep going up, and senior citizens have limited income already. He felt there should be some way to tax the developer since they build the houses and leave the Board to build the schools and take care of the roads.
Richard Alman addressed the Board again, objecting to the use of an abbreviation in the Plan.
9. Edward Vogel – Mr. Vogel questioned whether the County planned to do anything about the properties in the County piled with junk and/or junked cars. Mr. Vogel also questioned whether there were any plans for sewer services in the northern end of the county.
David Nicholson answered that the Board had adopted a Master Interceptor Sewer Plan which called eventually for a line to go down Highway 25 North. It is the next project on the schedule after the Mills River Sewer Plan.
Commissioner Young stated that he agreed there were several places in the County that needed some face lifting, and he had asked the County Manager and the Board to pull the Junk Car Ordinance out to look at it for a rewrite.
Josh Freeman had distributed several letters to the Board from David Lowles, Pennie Melton and Nancy Meister. Chairman Hawkins stated that these letters would be entered into the record. Those letters are attached hereto and incorporated as a part of the minutes.
Chairman Hawkins made the motion to go out of public hearing. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Chairman Hawkins thanked everyone for their thought provoking comments. He stated that some of the issues that had been raised were some of the same issues the Board had considered before, such as the cost aspect. He also discussed the differences in the CCP, and the ordinances that would need to be written to implement aspects of the Plan.
Commissioner Baldwin discussed the language in the draft CCP, stating that some of it seemed to be a little weak. He stated that he would be more in favor of “support” or “fund” rather than “continue to investigate the funding or the supporting of”. He stated that in some instances it may come down to cost, and the Board would have to work to try to find the money to do what they are committing to do. He discussed future supplements to the Plan with respect to public safety issues, fire suppression, health care, water supplies and agricultural marketing assistance.
Chairman Hawkins pointed out that the CCP is one part of a three part overall strategic plan being pursued by the County. Some of the items being discussed may be able to be transferred from one strategy to another. Referencing Commissioner Baldwin’s point about public safety, he discussed the example that in many cases members of volunteer fire departments are really the County’s first responders. Therefore, they may end up integrating into the plan in several fashions.
Commissioner Messer stated that he would still like to see the Board have some communication with the municipalities. Municipalities can essentially annex at will, and he would like to see some annexation maps to have an idea of where the municipalities are heading. He stated that he felt the draft was a very good document, and he thanked Josh Freeman and staff for their work on the document.
Josh Freeman stated that he did have the municipal land use plans for the different jurisdictions, as well as a potential annexation plan for the City of Hendersonville. There was discussion about future annexations plans for the various municipalities, and the steps Staff had taken to communicate with the municipalities for the process. There followed much discussion about annexation, why municipalities annex, and how annexation possibilities affect different aspects of the CCP.
Commissioner Young stated that he keeps hearing people talk about how the Board is rushing through the Plan. The Board had given the Planning Staff the mandate to have the Plan completed by March 2004. The date for adoption had been moved up, but the CCP was right on track with the time schedule originally laid out.
Commissioner Baldwin stated that one very important thing for the Board to do would be a periodic review of the CCP. The document should be adjustable, but should also provide a framework that any future Board could work with. Chairman Hawkins agreed, and discussed how future Board decisions should directly support items in the CCP so they may see the correlation between the plan, it’s implementation and the cost.
Commissioner Moyer stated that the Board had asked staff to look at where the language should be changed. Josh Freeman spoke to a memo he had written to the Board. He stated that the memo primarily contained his ideas, based on his position as Project Manager and working with the Board on a daily basis, about where things should go. Karen Smith and David Nicholson had reviewed the memo and offered guidance along the way. Items included in this memo reflected areas where Staff felt the document needed to be improved. It included items where Staff disagreed with the Advisory Committee, where the Advisory Committee and Staff disagreed with the public input.
Mr. Freeman then reviewed that memo with the Board, discussing the following elements of the Plan:
§ Natural Resources - The discussion about incentives to protect natural resources is good in the document, however discussion about historic and cultural resources is not there.
§ Economic Development – Despite the fact that public input did not indicate significant support for County involvement in economic development, Staff and the Advisory Committee felt that the County’s involvement in such matters was a high priority and should remain so.
§ Tourism – Another area where public input did not indicate significant support for County involvement, but Staff and the Advisory Committee felt that the County’s involvement was a high priority because it is a major part of our economy and funding opportunities are available from the State and Federal government to enhance tourism assets.
§ Asheville Regional Airport and its immediate vicinity – Though Henderson County no longer has direct land use authority over the area around the airport, staff felt that Henderson County still has a strong interest in the development of the area and should take a leadership role in shaping the future of the airport area in an advisory capacity, through economic development, or through sewer and water resources.
It was the consensus of the Board to maximize their ability to influence what happens in the area around the airport, while recognizing they didn’t have the land use authority.
§ Mitigation Plan – Staff and the Advisory Committee agreed that the County should consider adopting a Flood Hazard Prevention Ordinance that would meet the minimum FEMA requirements. Additionally, Staff argued that the County recognize the failings of the FEMA model ordinances and add more stringent requirements to those in the areas of development and filling in the 100-year flood plain.
Chairman Hawkins noted that the Board of Commissioners had historically been concerned about building in the floodplain. He expressed concern about the number of residences already in the floodplain and the related safety factors. Commissioner Baldwin stated that if the Board takes the land in the 100-year floodplain out of the developer market, they would be encouraging farming which is rapidly leaving the county. Commissioner Moyer stated he did not feel there was anything the Board could do that would encourage agriculture more than taking that land out of the developer market.
There was also discussion of how actions in the municipalities regarding the floodplain can change the floodplain in the County. There was also discussion about how much of the floodplain was still under the County’s control, especially with the recent incorporation of Mills River.
It was the consensus of the Board to take the land in the 100-year floodplain out of the developer market and allow it to be set aside for agricultural or other appropriate uses.
§ Natural Resources – The Board returned to this item to give consensus that they agreed with Staff’s position that historical and cultural resources should be identified and protected.
§ Recreation – Calls for the development of a Master Plan, similar to the school facility master plan, to plan for the long-term development of recreational facilities based on projected population growth. Staff’s position was that there should be a system of measuring performance against goals and objectives. Mr. Freeman discussed how master planning worked and how it affected long-term facilities planning with respect to several elements such as recreation, schools, libraries, etc. There followed much discussion on this method of tying such master plans to land development policies and whether the Board would stop development or require fees, etc.
It was the consensus of the Board that they wished to consider and study this issue, and to echo in the CCP what had already been included in the Strategic Plan.
§ Housing - Staff and the Advisory Committee agreed that the County should devote attention to the development of affordable housing. Staff also recommended adding an Action Strategy calling for the County to consider organizing and participating in the establishment of a countywide affordable housing fund.
It was the consensus of the Board that they would definitely like to study this issue, with staff working on wording regarding possible implementation following that study.
Chairman Hawkins made the motion to adjourn the meeting at 8:00 p.m. All voted in favor and the motion carried.
Amy Brantley, Deputy Clerk to the Board Grady Hawkins, Chairman