WATAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
MONDAY, JUNE 22, 2015
The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting at 5:30 P.M. on Monday, June 22, 2015, in the Commissioners’ Board Room located in the Watauga County Administration Building, Boone, North Carolina.
PRESENT: Jimmy Hodges, Chairman
David Blust, Vice-Chairman
Billy Kennedy, Commissioner
John Welch, Commissioner
Perry Yates, Commissioner
Stacy C. Eggers, IV, County Attorney
Deron Geouque, County Manager
Monica Harrison, Substitute Clerk to the Board
Chairman Hodges called the meeting to order at 5:34 P.M.
Commissioner Perry Yates opened the meeting with a prayer and Commissioner John Welch led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Approval of Agenda
Commissioner Welch, seconded by Commissioner Yates, moved to approve the June 22, 2015, agenda as presented.
DISCUSSION OF HIGH IMPACT LAND USE ORDINANCE
Chairman Hodges called on Joe Furman, Planning and Inspections Director to give his presentation on the High Impact Land Use Ordinance for Watauga County and review the PowerPoint Presentation that was unable to be viewed at the last meeting due to the relocation of the meeting to the courthouse. Mr. Furman stated that at the June 16, 2015 Board of Commissioners Meeting a second permit application had been received by the Planning and Inspections Department for an asphalt plant. The permit application has been reviewed and found to be deficient and did not meet the requirements of the current Watauga County High Impact Land Use (HILU) Ordinance, therefore the permit was denied.
Mr. Furman then reviewed a PowerPoint Presentation and discussed the Planning Board’s work in reference to the development of the current HILU and the different spacing restriction options being reviewed. The current spacing requirements in the HILU restrict uses to 1,500 feet from a public or private educational facility, licensed child care facilities, licensed assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Mr. Furman stated that a committee of approximately 20 people met for about one year prior to the adoption of the HILU. Protected land use parcels were looked at by the Planning Board including, but not limited to, religious parcels and public recreation lands. Public concern has been expressed for spacing restrictions and buffers for residential parcels and options have been reviewed by Planning staff to determine what the recommended spacing requirements should be. Mr. Furman stated it would be hard to implement a 1,500 foot residential buffer in Watauga County as this would potentially eliminate most locations. Mr. Furman’s presentation provided a map illustrating the protected area in Watauga County if a 1,500 foot residential buffer were put in place.
Mr. Furman mentioned the Ordinance to Regulate Sexually Oriented Businesses as an example, and said that Federal and State Law prohibits counties from completely prohibiting operation of these type of businesses, but that ordinances can be put in place to limit the amount of usable space available and require buffers for these types of businesses. The Planning Board is recommending a 500 foot buffer for residential parcels in the High Impact Land Use Ordinance. Mr. Furman also stated that concerns were noted from the Public Hearing held at the Board of Commissioners Meeting on June 16, 2015 when suggestions were made to look at spacing requirements for Scenic Byways and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Watauga County GIS staff developed maps as a guide to help the Planning Board and staff provide an illustrated view of how the different levels of spacing restrictions would limit the amount of available space for high impact land uses. The Scenic Byways referred to in Watauga County include; US 421 Scenic Byway, New River Valley Byway, Mission Crossing, Little Parkway, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Mr. Furman said that there was a lot of careful consideration put into the High Impact Land Use Ordinance on the part of the Planning Board in making recommendations to the Commissioners regarding restrictions needed in the HILU. He then answered questions from the Commissioners. Mr. Furman clarified that the proposed revisions to the HILU would apply to all Category 1 land uses, would be less restrictive to Category 2 land uses, and would not change for Category 3 land uses.
Chairman Hodges stated that the Commissioners held a Public Hearing on June 16, 2015 to seek citizen input on the High Impact Land Use Ordinance (HILU) and the changes recommended by the Planning Board. As a result of that meeting, Commissioners directed staff and the County Attorney to examine options and develop possible changes to the HILU to reflect the citizen comments and input voiced at the June 16, 2015 meeting. He said that the purpose of the special meeting being held, June 22, 2015 is to discuss recommendations to modify the HILU. Due to possible legal considerations that may proceed after modification to the HILU it was necessary for the Board to go into closed session per NCGS 143-318.11(a)(3) to consult with the County Attorney.
Chairman Hodges stated that he and some of the other Commissioners had received some very nasty emails and comments from individuals and that these were not called for and were not appreciated. Chairman Hodges said that the Commissioners are working together on this issue to the best of their ability to represent the views of the citizens of Watauga County and wanted to make it clear that this is not a political issue. Commissioner Kennedy agreed with Chairman Hodges and thanked the citizens for their attendance and for expressing their concerns without inappropriate comments or emails.
Chairman Hodges said that the Board may take action after closed session and in the event the Board makes substantial changes to the HILU another Public Hearing will be scheduled.
At that time, Commissioner Kennedy, seconded by Vice-Chairman Blust, moved to enter closed session to discuss Attorney/Client Matters per, G.S. 143-318.11(a)(3).
Commissioner Yates, seconded by Vice-Chairman Blust, moved to resume the regular meeting at 6:38 P.M.
The County Attorney provided details regarding NC General Statute 153A-340(h) that sets forth standards for the adoption of temporary development moratoria, including the provision that where there is imminent and substantial threat to public health or safety a moratorium may be adopted without first conducting a public hearing.
County Attorney Eggers restated by consensus, the Board of Commissioners agreed to follow the framework and recommendations provided by the Planning Board to modify the High Impact Land Use Ordinance. The proposed revised amendment to the High Impact Land Use Ordinance included spacing requirements in which Category 1 High Impact Land Uses may not be established within 1,500 feet of the road right-of-way designated by NCDOT as a NC Scenic Byway or within 1,500 feet of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Board of Commissioners will consider a residential setback of between 500 and 1,500 feet, understanding that a 1,500 foot setback may place the HILU in question of validity since this would eliminate almost all usable space for Category 1 land uses.
Due to the changes being proposed to the High Impact Land Use Ordinance, a public hearing was scheduled for the next Board of Commissioners Meeting on July 7, 2015 at 8:30 A.M. to allow for public comment. Typically, public hearings are scheduled for the second meeting of the month (night meeting). However, time was of the essence and the Commissioners deemed it necessary to schedule a public hearing for July 7, 2015 at 8:30 A.M.
Commissioner Billy Kennedy, seconded by Commissioner John Welch, moved to adopt an Ordinance Establishing a Development Moratorium on Certain High Impact Land Uses effective June 22, 2015 and ending on July 31, 2015 and to schedule a public hearing to consider revisions to the High Impact Land Use Ordinance for July, 7, 2015 at 8:30 A.M.
The Commissions expressed their appreciation of the work that County Manager Geouque and Planning and Inspections Director Furman had done developing viable options for the County to address this important issue and thanked the concerned citizens for their attendance and passion on this issue.
Commissioner Kennedy, seconded by Vice-Chairman Blust, moved to adjourn the meeting at 6:52 P.M.
Jimmy Hodges, Chairman
Monica K. Harrison, Substitute Clerk to the Board