10/07/09 — County eyes subdivision plat approval

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County eyes subdivision plat approval

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 7, 2009 1:46 PM

County commissioners by a 4-2 vote Tuesday morning moved another step closer to asserting authority over subdivision plats -- a step taken without any discussion of recommendations from the Planning Board.

A second vote has to be taken before the county's rewritten subdivision ordinance becomes effective. Commissioner Sandra McCullen was absent from the meeting, requiring that another vote be held.

Commissioner Jack Best pressed for approval after first offering an amendment to reduce the number of lots for a "minor" subdivision on a state-maintained road from 10 to four.

The minor subdivision rule is designed to provide an abbreviated plat submission process. It would allow a developer to go directly to a final plat for a subdivision where no major improvements are proposed that would necessitate a preliminary plat for construction purposes.

Prior to that vote, a 3-3 split killed Commissioner Steve Keen's amendment that would have required an economic impact analysis of all subdivisions. Keen and Commissioners Andy Anderson and J.D. Evans voted for the amendment. Best and Commissioners Bud Gray and John Bell voted against it.

Keen and Anderson voted against Best's motion after they were unsuccessful in their attempts to dissuade Best from acting.

"There are other items we have not gone over," Keen said. "There are 20 other pages of them."

Bell countered that the board previously had discussed the items.

"I thought we were going to have a work session," Keen said. "I think the reduction from 10 to four is a great idea, but there is a lot to talk about. I thought we were going back into a work session to discuss the rest of the ordinance."

Anderson said he would accept the amendment offered by Best, but that he was not ready to vote on the entire package.

Evans reminded the board that a second vote would be needed, providing the opportunity to make additional changes.

Anderson also sought to tie the subdivision ordinance to the Planning Board ordinance that was discussed in committee Monday afternoon. Anderson, who is on that committee, renewed his contention that commissioners are "getting the cart before the horse" by amending the subdivision ordinance prior to changing the ordinance that created the Planning Board to start with.

"What your committee was doing yesterday, in my personal opinion and I know it is not yours, is two separate issues," Best said. "I want to get this on the table so at our next meeting we can vote on it. That is the reason I am doing that."

The second vote is expected at commissioners' Oct. 20 session.

The board did not discuss Monday's committee meeting or the recommendations that were made. Gray said those discussions also would be held at the Oct. 20 meeting.

Keen said he was concerned that reporters with the local cable television channel as well as radio station had left and were not there to broadcast the discussion.

"I agree with you, Jack. I think we ought to move on also," Keen said. "I was hoping that we could get this process out before all of the people because it has certainly been an issue for the whole county for the last three or four months."

"We have a motion on the floor. If you want to make a motion, you make a motion," Bell said.

Keen said his concern was that he had earlier brought up the issue of economic impact analysis.

"So that the county is aware of the property tax values and how the properties are valued because of roads and I think that has to do with the subdivision ordinance -- that is all of this started up was subdivisions and the roads."

Bell called for the vote and Anderson reiterated his earlier comments about Monday's committee meeting.

Keen asked Best to repeat his motion, but before a vote could be taken, Keen said he wanted to offer an amendment to include the economic impact analysis.

For example, Keen said that the 70-acre Drake Estates subdivision site on U.S. 13 in the Mar Mac community two years ago had a tax value of $166,000 generating $1,275 in taxes.

"Today, that subdivision approved development would have a value of $1,350,000, land only and county revenue income of $10,300," he said. "These lots are single-family dwellings with a tax value somewhere close to $150,000 per house. If fully developed, the county property tax value would be $15.3 million generating $116,800 in revenue income to the county.

"So 70 acres in two years has grown from $1,275 in income to $127,000 in income for the county."

Such projects create jobs and retail sales that produce sales tax revenues, he pointed out.

"The reason I mention that is that the long-range transportation priority list that was handed out this morning shows roads over the next 20, 30, 40 years and when the board looks at a subdivision I think it is imperative that the board understands the economic impact of turning down a subdivision or approving a subdivision in the county."

Keen then offered his amendment, which failed 3-3.

The journey to Tuesday's vote started in June when commissioners told county Planning Director Connie Price and county attorney Borden to rewrite the ordinance to give them the authority to approve all subdivision plats.

The Planning Board would review the plats and make recommendations to commissioners.

Currently, most plats are approved by the Planning Board. Price himself may approve minor ones -- five lots on a secondary road or three on a private drive.

Recommendations offered by the Planning Board, but not discussed included:

*The Planning Board would make recommendations and commissioners would approve preliminary plats.

*Price would not only continue to approve minor plats, he would approve final plats as well. He would be given 30 days to act on a plat. Failure to do so would send the plat to the Planning Board.

*A committee of three commissioners and three Planning Board members would be created to review plats that are approved by one board, but disapproved by the other.

*Notes would be added to plats to indicate any proposed roads that might cross the property.