Michael Bobbitt: Notes From The Peanut Gallery (CoH February 24th, 2014)

Public Hearings

City Council had two public hearings on their agenda. The first public hearing involved the rezoning of seven individual properties; 1.7 acres of land located in the south-east quadrant of the intersection of US 1 and NC 39. In January the Council held a public hearing regarding the rezoning of .43 of an acre in the same location. Nothing was said during either rezoning hearings to give a hint why the land needed to be re-zone to B4 Neighborhood Commercial Zoning District from I2 Industrial Non-Park Zoning District. No one was present to object to the zoning change and none of the property owners affected by the change spoke favoring the change. Now we wait to see what business moves in. Please allow me to complement Ms. Dunston for her use of PowerPoint to show an overview and some details of the area impacted by the proposed zoning ordinance change. The content of the PowerPoint presentation was just right. Sufficient to show the whole area impacted without unnecessary slides. Maybe Mr. Griffin would allow Ms. Dunston to show the County’s management team how to present a similar zoning ordinance change. After all four commissioners bring their county issued laptops to Board meetings.

The second public hearing also had no public supporters or detractors present to speak their mind regarding an amendment of the zoning ordinance to further regulate signs in street right of ways and in public places. In simpler words the zoning ordinance will soon ban all those signs littering the road ways advertising various schemes, services, products, and yard sales. Council member James Kearney said it would behoove the council to notify the Board of Elections, local board of realtors, and similar bodies of this zoning ordinance change since the ordinance has teeth now. The teeth Mr. Kearney spoke about is a $50 fine for each unauthorized sign placed in a public right of way. Implantation of the ordinance was delayed until April 4th allowing the city manager to communicate the ordinance change. Once in effect I expect to see and hear some angry individuals clambering about at a future city council meeting dismayed at the government’s infringement of their ‘first amendment right’ to clutter public right of ways with unapproved advertising especially those ubiquitous non-biodegradable signs on a metal frames.

Regular Work Session

Thinking of citizen outrage next month’s regular meeting might include some public concern over the increase in sanitation fees. Mr. Griffin stated the City has not kept pace with Waste Industry’s fee increases and it is time to pass the increase along to the residences and businesses. For residences with only one 96 gallon cart there is no increase; for those needing a second cart you will pay an additional $.35. For residences with lots of trees you may want to bag the fall leaf display before mid-October to avoid the new $75 fee for loose leaf pick up between mid-October and mid-January. Another way to avoid the fee would be to leave the leaves where Mother Nature put them from mid-October until after the mid-January. Businesses will see a fee increase from $4.73 to $11.83 depending on the number of pick-ups per week.

Public Hearing non consent agenda

Reverend Brodie spoke about the ‘torn up street around were he drives’. Mr. Brodie stated that the potholes and protruding manholes make passage on many city streets possible in a Humvee or a tank. He added that some of our streets are in worse shape than in the mid-East. They he asked, “Isn’t there grant money for fixing the streets?” Mr. Griffin, replied no grants for street repair, “We use our part of the gas tax to pave the streets.” Mr. Griffin did offer to gather more information regarding the streets Reverend Brodie referred to and report his findings at the next council meeting.

Closed Session

Before the council entered into closed session Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Rainey informed the throngs attending the meeting there would be no statement following the closed session. Closed door sessions give council members a place to resolve a city personnel matter, or legal issue, or maybe just time to take a break from the stresses and strains of a public meetings. When the members returned from the closed session and the public meeting resumed Mr. Zollicoffer uttered a tantalizing factoid about the purpose of the closed session. Before I continue on I need to apologize for failing to restart the recording when the public session resumed. The factoid implies the city needs to pay CSX over a broken waterline under their tracks. Inquiring minds want to know more. I’ll offer this bit of whole cloth speculation; the City has permission to run a water line under the CSX track and had to pay CSX when that water line broke.