07/12/11 — Mount Olive board approves changes for plat

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Mount Olive board approves changes for plat

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 12, 2011 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive Town Board of Commissioners approved a subdivision plat Monday night that Town Manager Charles Brown hinted would be for a major project on property near the Southern Belle Motel.

Brown did not identify the project, and after the meeting Mayor Ray McDonald Sr., said he knew there was interest in the property, but had not been told what is being planned.

In prior years, speculation has centered on a new restaurant when the Southern Belle Restaurant closes. However, in recent months that speculation has turned to a new motel.

The plat approval was for George R. Kornegay Jr. and The Kornegay Company LLC.

"This basically is a proposal to subdivide this into out parcels. One parcel will be a major parcel sitting in the back," Brown said. "If you are familiar with where the Southern Belle Motel sits now, there is a ditch that runs across the back of it.

"This area behind the ditch will be another major parcel of this. We have reviewed this and we are recommending that you approve it. This bodes well for the future of Mount Olive. There is a substantial amount of additional tax base potential here."

Brown said it "sets the future for the town" and would be "good revenue for the town."

Meanwhile, no one showed up for the town's one-minute public hearing on redistricting. Afterward, the board night voted unanimously to delay the 2011 municipal election to give the town enough time to draw and implement new voting district lines.

Attorney Chris Heagarty, who is handling the plan for the town, told commissioners they have two options.

The first is to allow the election to proceed on schedule using the existing lines -- something that leaves the town open to a possible lawsuit.

The second, and recommended option, would be to delay the election until next May to allow time to draft and have the new district lines approved.

Board members at first considered discussing new district lines at their August meeting before deciding that September would not only give them, but the public, more time.

In calling for a motion, the mayor asked for the September meeting and to advertise it and include a copy of the new district map in the newspaper. McDonald said he would also like for copies of the map to be on display at town hall and the Mount Olive Area Chamber of Commerce office.

Heagarty told commissioners that by law the districts have to be as close to equal populations as they can be. Also, Mount Olive is subject to the Voting Rights Act.

That means that the redrawn district lines must be sent to the U.S. Justice Department for pre-clearance before the new districts can be implemented.

"The population changes in Mount Olive have not been huge, but because it has been so long since your last redistricting, there have been shifts within the municipal limits such that your districts are out of balance," Heagarty said.

District 3 represented by Fulghum is the largest district and has 330 more people than its ideal population, he said.

Minority District 1 represented by Kenny Talton and District 2 represented by Hosea Manley have about 145 people less than the ideal population. District 4 represented by Gene Lee is about 40 people too short.

The imbalance means the lines have to be redrawn and pass federal muster.

State law requires that all of that be done three days before the filing begins, Heagarty said.

"Unfortunately under state law your filing period is at the end of this month," Heagarty said. "No matter how expeditiously you might work, there is no way that we feel you can redraw these districts, get them to the Justice Department and have them pre-clear them three days prior to July 20. It just won't happen."

Even asking for expeditious treatment, the Justice Department will not guarantee anything less than 60 days, he said.

State law allows the town to adopt a resolution to delay the election until the time of the following year's primary. Copies have to be sent to the federal and state governments and local Board of Elections. For Mount Olive, that would be May 8.

The town cannot set its own election date, Heagarty said.

Filing would begin at noon on Feb. 13, 2012, and end at noon on Feb. 29.

McDonald asked Heagarty how the town would get the election back on its regular schedule.

"When you move it, it is a one-time thing," Heagarty said. "It is a pro-con kind of thing. Everyone will get the benefit of a couple of extra months on their terms, but then you have the drawback that the next term is going to be kind of short. Your next election in 2013 will be scheduled just like it should be."