Please, not in my back yard

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The search is on for a new county planner since Traci Belch White, the person who last filled this position for Gates County, has departed for her native Bertie County.

This week, I've heard many comments about Ms. White's departure. I also received only one letter expressing regret over her leaving the county.

I have to say that I was not surprised when I learned from the office of County Manager Mark Biberdorf that White had submitted her resignation on Aug. 18. Biberdorf spoke on her behalf of course. However, he said nothing about his trying to get her to stay on as planner for Gates County.

White said she accepted the position as planning director for Bertie County to return to her roots and be near her mother. That is commendable on her part. But is there another reason for her departure?

White has been the subject of much discussion in the county. She has taken heat from many people, including one of Gates County's oldest natives, John Willey. He took White to task in front of those attending meetings of the board of commissioners on four separate months.

For the most part, Willey requested information on the number of new housing starts in Gates County and it took White four months to deliver the facts.

In one letter to the editor, it is stated that White worked hard on zoning and mapping for Gates County. Apparently not hard enough for Phillip and Vickie Taylor, natives of Gates County. While rezoning is a way of life, the Taylors, who live on a farm owned by Vickie's father (also a native of the county), now have a huge tract of land totally dedicated to storage facilities; mini-storage units, facing their old home.

The issue of zoning has been on the table in front of Gates County's Board of Commissioners for about five years and no one had the forethought to get on with the task of developing zoning maps until last year. That's just about the time when land developers saw the county as a fertile field for the manufactured housing that Commission Chairman J.S. Pierce and Commissioners William Harrell, Frank Rountree, Marsha Faulk Langston and David Brown decry at each meeting of the board.

It is easy to point fingers and say that someone was not doing their job. But it must also be stated that part of White's failure to produce information and to complete the zoning project as well as the mapping project that she did initiate must fall in the hands of the commissioners.

In the long run, after all, the county commissioners are elected to serve and, in some manner, protect the rights of the people who put them in office. When time goes by and people think that Gates County is fine at the status quo, that growth will not come because they are satisfied with the current lifestyle, then they are also failing at their job.

They were put in office to look at the future, not through a crystal ball or a gypsy fortuneteller, but at the figures presented each month by the county planner and the building inspector who also gives a monthly report to the commissioners. With the figures for new home starts, especially the developments like "Whitehurst Farms" which is mushrooming as you read; the handwriting should have been on the wall.

People like the Taylors should not have mini-storage facility 60 feet from their front door. They should have been able to pass that family home place down to their sons in a neighborhood without commercial interruption.

White did offer an apology to Vickie and her dad when they came to inform the public of what had happened in their lives. But guess what n that mini-storage area was already under construction in that beautiful and formerly serene neighborhood where even the Cool Springs Church parsonage is now faced with people trucking in their possessions to store in those units.

As for White and the commissioners; they all live in fine homes in fine neighborhoods where I could just about bet you that not a storage facility or any other type of industry will destroy the serenity and beauty of their neighborhoods.

Contrary to what you may think after reading this, I thought and still think of Traci White as a fine young woman; pretty and personable. Were things here happening too fast? Was the growth spurt too much to handle?

No matter my opinion or yours, Traci has secured the planning developer's position in her native Bertie County. I know she will be happier because she's gone home.

As for Gates County; it's not too late to make the changes that finally got underway. I hope that Biberdorf and the commissioners will take this opportunity to find someone with the knowledge, perseverance and diligence to get the zoning done with maps that will provide exact information to guide what goes on in our beautiful neighborhoods.