05/21/12 — Leaders will eye mobile homes

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Leaders will eye mobile homes

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 21, 2012 1:46 PM

Wayne County Commissioner and former Planning Board chairman Steve Keen recently scolded fellow board members for seemingly thwarting development projects when they reach the board for final approval even though they have met county rules and regulations.

But for Commissioners Jack Best and Sandra McCullen, the issue was highway safety.

At question was a 32-lot mobile home park that would sit on approximately 14.7 acres on the south side of N.C. 55 east of Mount Olive and approximately 200 feet west of Billy Price Road. The lots would access N.C. 55 by way of an interior street, but also would have access through the adjoining Cabin Creek Mobile Home Park to N.C. 55 and to Billy Price Road near its intersection with N.C. 55.

Best sparked Keen's rebuff when he expressed consternation that the state Department of Transportation was not requiring a turn lane for the mobile home park. N.C. 55 is a busy highway that has been the scene of numerous wrecks including several fatalities, Best said.

Best wanted the item removed from the agenda and the DOT contacted to take a second look at whether highway safety improvements were needed before the county approved the project.

The board agreed to delay consideration of the project until its June 5 session, but only after a back-and-forth exchange between Keen and Best and Mrs. McCullen.

"From what I understand from sitting here for almost the past four years is that we generally look at DOT to give us direction," Keen said. "Of course they look to us also. As long as he is in compliance as a developer, the DOT signs off on it, I have no problem with it. People have to have a place to live. You keep taking things back and talking -- the process has already been done.

"I don't understand why we, as a board, have to continue to harp to put people on a waiting list in order for them to step out and do exactly what county policies already set. DOT has already signed off on it. All the due diligence has been done and the board wants to send it back. I don't understand why we try to stop, in these hard economic times, development."

Mrs. McCullen said she thought the issue was safety.

Best at first mentioned a "right-in, right-out" for the project. However, County Planner Connie Price said that would mean a barrier on the highway preventing left turns. Best said he had misspoken.

"I am just talking about being able to get in there with a slowdown lane and an acceleration lane," Best said.

County ordinances require develops to obtain a driveway permit from the DOT and a copy of the development map is sent to the DOT while it under review by the county, Price said.

"The reason we brought the final plot plans back to the county commissioners versus just letting the Planning Board sign off on them is because of things like this," Best said. "There are some things that we see down the road . We have just got through with a year and a half discussion about Highway 55.

"Sure, this meets all of the requirements. But the truth of the matter is this is a dangerous situation here -- it could be. What we want to do is prevent somebody from dying out there or getting hurt. I think Mrs. McCullen has a very good point. Now that we have questioned it maybe DOT needs to look at it one more time. We are only talking about 30 days. I am not talking about delaying it. I am just talking about looking at it and again and making sure they approve it so they won't come back and blame us if something happens."

If it is just a matter of the DOT taking another look, the plat could be back before commissioners in two weeks instead of 30 days, Price said.

That would be fine, Best said. However, the board's next session is not until June 5.

Also at issue, Best said, is the existing 30-lot mobile home park that already is funneling traffic on and off N.C. 55 within 100 feet of the intersection with Billy Price Road.

Best asked if the roads inside the park would be paved.

The ordinance does not require paved streets in mobile home parks, Keen said.

"That is a good point. That is my issue," Keen said. "There is a lot up here that we don't know that the Planning Board does know. As long as Mr. Price knows the ordinances, then he leads the Planning Board in what is policy and what is not, what is ordinance and what is not. The guidelines that we go by are the guidelines set by commissioners who set policy."

Likewise the DOT has policies it follows, he said. Keen said he didn't think there was anything more important to the DOT than saving lives. Best and Mrs. McCullen agreed.

Keen said he didn't mind the three-week wait, but had a problem with questioning the DOT as far as saving lives.

Best and Mrs. McCullen said they were not questioning the DOT on that point, but were just asking that the DOT explain the process for not requiring turn lanes.

"I don't think that is too much to ask," she said.