08/05/09 — Commission rejects Keen rezoning plan

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Commission rejects Keen rezoning plan

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 5, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners with no discussion Tuesday morning voted down a rezoning request by fellow board member Steve Keen.

The first reading on the request last month passed by a 6-0 vote after Keen recused himself. Tuesday's motion for approval failed 4-1.

Commissioner Andy Anderson, who made the motion for the first vote, also made Tuesday's motion to approve the request and was the only person to vote for it.

Keen recused himself. Commissioner Sandra McCullen did not vote.

Mrs. McCullen offered no explanation for her non-vote during the meeting. In an interview later in the day, she said she had not voted because she felt she needed more information. However, she said there was nothing in particular that she questioned.

"It just needed to be discussed," she said. "I am concerned about the constant conversations about the role of the Planning Board and county commissioners. Hopefully we can get some resolution so we can move forward as a board."

Mrs. McCullen said she thought not voting would count toward the majority.

"Comments?" asked Chairman Bud Gray to start the conversation. "Motion to approve or disapprove?"

Anderson then made his motion and Gray called for a show of hands.

"Four no's, one yes," Gray said.

The board was mute when Anderson asked, "Where do we go from here? Is this not just routine approval like all the other plans we come up with?"

"I don't think routine is the right word," said county attorney Borden Parker. "The reason I am saying that is because that your ordinance clearly says that the board of commissioners is in charge of the decision as to whether any zone is changed, but if I remember, it says that the owner can ask within a year, another year to have it rezoned."

"Any time within the year?" Anderson asked.

"There is a year wait," Parker said.

"I don't understand (the vote)," Anderson said.

Anderson said the county already is looking at possible zoning changes in the Rosewood area where Keen's property is located. Requiring the wait could cause "a real problem out there," Anderson said.

"Others are out there trying to zone, too," he added.

Parker told Anderson that anyone who voted one way could ask for a reconsideration of the vote.

"It seems strange to me. I don't know," Anderson said.

The county, he said, votes all of the time on requests by limited partnerships not knowing who they are, and they are routinely approved.

But then one comes before the commissioners that they know about and "we don't approve it. It just seems strange," he said.

Keen had petitioned to have 19.61 acres rezoned from Residential-Agriculture 20 to Residential 15 to develop a subdivision of single-family housing.

He also had asked that the 51.17 acres that front the site on the south side of U.S. 70 just east of N.C. 581 be rezoned from Residential-Agriculture-20 to Community Shopping to allow for commercial development.

The Planning Board recommended the rezoning.

Prior to last month's vote, Commissioners Jack Best and John Bell worried that the board needed to be cautious to avoid the appearance of favoritism.

County Planning Director Connie Price and some commissioners have voiced concerns also about the county's lack of standards for signs and parking lots.

The county has adopted a sign ordinance and a public hearing was held Tuesday on an ordinance regulating parking and off-street parking. No action was taken.

Keen did not respond to the vote.

However, he did read a statement at the end of the meeting.

"To the people of Wayne County -- my wife Beverly and I are owners, as you all know now, of a tract on Highway 70 west near Highway 581," he said. "This property was a purchase and acquired through a gift in-kind, an exchange when I sold Adams Auto Wash after I had washed cars for nearly 28 years, and as citizens of Wayne County and residents of the community, we have a natural interest in the development of our property and the property surrounding it.

"We are committed to the development of the property in a manner which will be an asset to Wayne County, be an asset to the community, our families and the residents.

"Proper commercial development in this area will provide jobs, it will create sales tax revenues and increase property tax values. Due to my interest in long-term economic development of Wayne County, I first applied to be appointed to a member of the Planning Board eight years ago and offered myself as a candidate for Wayne County commissioner last year. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to serve the people of Wayne County in both roles. It is inevitable that any property owner in Wayne County, any property owner, such as myself, will have a direct interest in issues before the Planning Board and commissioners. I have been careful, I repeat I have been very, very careful to always represent the truth and remove myself from any discussion involving our property. I thank you for your time."