September 18, 2023 at 10:06 a.m.

Public Opinion Doesn't Matter

Commissioners say state law befuddles their efforts to be responsive
Commissioner Bud Cesena says "we tried, but weren't allowed to limit development."  Commissioners reversed two earlier rezoning decisions after property owners filed suit.
Commissioner Bud Cesena says "we tried, but weren't allowed to limit development." Commissioners reversed two earlier rezoning decisions after property owners filed suit.

WAYNE HOWARD | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment
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It's something this reporter has heard over and over again: "What's the point of going to the public hearings; they're just going to do what they want to do anyway!"

Unfortunately, the belief that public comments at hearings held by governing bodies like the Lincolnton City Council and Lincoln County Commissioners don't have any effect on the decisions is based on history, but there is a general misunderstanding of the reasons behind that history.

On September 11th, Lincoln County Commissioners reversed an earlier decision that turned down two requests for rezoning in the East Lincoln area.  

One of those, previously denied but approved on September 11th, will allow Taylor Morrison Homes to build up to 55 homes on Creek Park Drive west of N. Little Egypt Road.  The other will allow Pace Development Group to build up to 199 homes on an adjacent property at the intersection of N. Little Egypt Road and Optimist Club Road.

Commissioners had denied both requests after a public hearing on November 7th; but in January, the current owners of the property filed a lawsuit, and on August 30th, the County agreed to a consent order rather than take the matter to court.

Some of the new homes (up to 254) will be built on lots smaller than the current County ordinance allows--but when the rezoning request was filed, the current standard had not yet been approved.  

A Community Involvement Meeting held last June 29th on both proposals showed that a significant majority of area residents are very much opposed to the rezoning.

The requests, however, met certain stipulations that all such rezoning requests must meet; and it was obvious that the lawsuit, if taken to court, would have forced the County to acquiesce--and so they did.

One of the reasons the community as a whole doesn't want the new homes built is traffic--but the proposed builders submitted information from the Dept. of Transportation that indicated that no significant changes to roads would be necessary.  

Of course, anyone who has traveled NC73 in the area of the N. Little Egypt intersection during early morning or mid-afternoon knows that school traffic makes for long delays.  

Speaking schools, those over 250 new homes may well (based on national averages) produce as many as 375 more students in an area where an elementary school is already near full capacity.  But state guidelines do not allow Commissioners to consider that potential problem in making their rezoning decisions.

While on legal advice, he couldn't directly address the issues, Commissioner Bud Cesena appeared to express what all of the Commissioners were thinking when he spoke before the vote on September 11th:

"As a citizen of that township, I relate to and sympathize with those citizens.  However, as an elected official sitting on this Board, I--and the rest of my fellow Commissioners--are bound by the laws of North Carolina.  Over the past ten years, the courts and the General Assembly have continued to limit local governments in their ability to regulate development within their borders.

"Both these cases were previously denied, and the owners of those properties filed suit against the County.  Based on advice from counsel, this Board had entered into consent orders to reconsider these cases.  

"Despite my frustration and my understanding of the impact of development, as a member of this Board, I am required to look beyond some of these concerns and make rulings consistent with North Carolina law as it currently stands."



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