08/03/04 — Two cited for cursing at Goldsboro City Council meeting

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Two cited for cursing at Goldsboro City Council meeting

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on August 3, 2004 1:59 PM

Two members of a group trying to open a new Montessori school in Goldsboro were cited for cursing at the City Council meeting Monday, while another member of the group was ordered to pick up trash she threw on the floor inside City Hall.

Nathan Lean, 19, of Goldsboro, and Aaron Kornegay, 27, of LaGrange, were issued citations by the police for rude comments in public.

According to the police, Lean used an euphemism for copulation, while Kornegay made a reference to excrement.

They were cited for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and 60 days in jail. The penalty is determined by the person's criminal history.

This morning Lean told the News-Argus that he "said something I shouldn't have said, but I don't regret that it happened."

The outbreak of emotion came after the council denied a rezoning request from Larry and Linda Lean. The Leans wanted the north side of South Harding Drive, between New Hope Road and North Park Drive, to be rezoned from residential to office and institutional.

The couple hoped to open a Montessori school for about 50 students in a farmhouse near the North Landing Apartments complex.

Montessori schools practice a system of teaching young children, devised in 1907 by Maria Montessori, which emphasizes training of the senses and guidance rather than rigid control of the child's activity.

The city received a protest petition from opponents and found that 60 percent of owners in front of the property and 100 percent of owners to the side and rear of the property opposed the rezoning.

That meant that it would have taken a yes vote from six out of the seven council members for the request to be approved.

During a public hearing on July 19, residents in the area opposed the project, citing noise and traffic concerns.

At that hearing Larry Lean told the council that he heard people were protesting because of noise and assured the board that they "would be good neighbors and would practice what we preach."

After the council unanimously voted against the rezoning request Monday, a group of about 10 people supporting the rezoning began leaving the council room.

A teen-age girl began shredding sheets of paper, scattering the bits of paper all over the council floor as she walked slowly out of the room.

For a moment, the council watched in stunned silence.

Then Mayor Al King asked two policemen to bring the girl back in the room to pick up the trash.

"Make her pick up that trash she threw on the floor," King said.

As the girl began to pick up the trash, Larry Lean said that she didn't throw it on the floor. He said that she "dropped it."

Councilman Bob Waller shook his head in disbelief. He asked if that was what the children at the school would be taught.

Lean stared at the council and said, "We expect better representation."

He said that the council was only representing the interests of a special group by denying the rezoning.

Larry Lean's son, Nathan, said he was especially upset because Chris Boyette, a member of the planning commission, had told him that the council was going to deny the request.

"He told me a week ago that the council said it wouldn't pass, and that the reason the Planning Commission denied it was because the council said it wouldn't pass," Nathan explained. "That infuriated me."

Boyette denied saying that.

"That's not accurate," Boyette told the News-Argus today. "I told them that I had asked various people their opinion of the rezoning, including a couple of council members, and that no one was in favor of it."

Boyette said that it wasn't uncommon for members of the planning commission to try to get a general idea of what the public thought, by asking questions of citizens.

He said that the only places zoned for office and institutional in that area also had a special use designation.

"We as a commission felt that we would be able to look favorably on the request if it was presented as a special use," he explained. "If he presents it again with a special use, we will move forward."

Nathan Lean said today that the people objecting to the school had received wrong information, and that was the reason for the protest petition.

"Some people thought we were going to have a half-way house," he said. "We weren't represented the way we should have been."

Lean called the council a "puppet government" and said the board didn't even discuss the matter.

But the council did discuss the matter during a briefing Monday before the council meeting. The briefing sessions, which begin at 5 p.m., are open to the public.

During the briefing the council said that though it had received letters or calls in the past two weeks supporting the project, those letters weren't from people living in the area affected by the rezoning.

Lean said he tried to talk to Councilman Jackie Warrick on Sunday about the vote, and that all Warrick would say was "we'll see."

"We'll see what happens during election time," said Lean.

Warrick has only served on the council since April and will not come up for re-election until 2007.

Both Nathan and Larry Lean said today their concern was the "below par" education in Wayne County, and they wanted to give people other options for their children.

"This decision hurts small children," said Larry Lean.

Nathan Lean said that they "may have lost this battle, but we will win the war."

The Wayne Montessori School on South Harding Drive said Tuesday that it is in no way affiliated with this group.