Ordinance motivation questioned

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 8, 2007

GATESVILLE – A few citizens who protested an ordinance concerning manufactured homes at the Gates County Planning Board meeting on December 19 continued voicing their displeasure at Monday’s Board of Commissioner’s meeting.

Gates County Planning Director Randall Cahoon began by giving a report of the Planning Board agenda and minutes from the last meeting.

That was followed by a request from Cahoon to hold a special meeting concerning zoning issues and revisions to the Manufactured Home and Manufactured Home Park Ordinance.

Afterward, Cahoon offered a correction for previous data that had been submitted and the commissioners appeared ready to move on the next item on the agenda.

However, several private citizens were in attendance for the sole purpose of addressing the board and were not leaving until given an opportunity to do just that.

Commissioner J.S. Pierce initially thought the citizens should hold off on their comments.

&uot;I don’t have a problem with anyone addressing the board,&uot; Pierce said. &uot;I just think that you would probably accomplish more bringing these issues up at the planning board’s special meeting.&uot;

Dan Bazemore, who had previously taken Cahoon to task at the December 19 meeting, was the first to address the board.

&uot;We did what was required of us to be placed on today’s agenda,&uot; Bazemore said. &uot;I am a concerned citizen of Gates County that wants to see some things changed.&uot;

Bazemore told the commissioners that he was disappointed with the way the planning board’s meeting was conducted among other things.

&uot;The meeting was conducted poorly,&uot; Bazemore said. &uot;We left that meeting with misinterpretations of what the county’s position was on some issues.&uot;

The biggest misinterpretation that Bazemore spoke of was particular tracts of land in the county being designated as zoned for mobile homes.

Bazemore inquired of the commissioners whether or not the ordinance requiring individuals looking to convert their mobile homes to &uot;real property&uot; as well as own their own land was strictly an effort by the county to raise the tax base.

&uot;Many young couples looking to purchase their first home are already strapped for cash,&uot; Bazemore said. &uot;The added cost of complying with the county ordinance appears to be done with the intention of driving mobile homes out of Gates County.&uot;

Cahoon rebuked that assertion, claiming that several tracts of land had been zoned for mobile homes when the new maps were presented to the public last month.

Still, Bazemore viewed the county’s position as heavy-handed to say the least.

&uot;Doesn’t the term ‘mobile home’ mean that you can move it,&uot; Bazemore chimed in. &uot;By requesting that the property owner immobilize their home and do it at their own expense seems to be a blatant attempt to generate tax revenue.&uot;

Bazemore explained to the commissioners that he had done quite a bit of research concerning the taxation policies of Gates County and found there were many inconsistencies.

&uot;I understand that there are tax incentives for farmers and woodland owners,&uot; Bazemore said. &uot;But I do not think that Gates County citizens are being taxed on a level playing field.&uot;

The constitutionality of the county’s tax policies was also brought into question on Monday.

Earl Rountree, another citizen scheduled to speak at the meeting, questioned the right of the county to determine what private landowners could do with their property.

&uot;I do not believe that on an individual level any of you (commissioners) would disagree that the current ordinance places a serious burden on young people looking to move into home ownership,&uot; Rountree said. &uot;Property owners are protected by the Bill of Rights on what they may or may not do with their own land.&uot;

Rountree took exception to the fact that the zoning ordinance insisted that new mobile home owners own any newly created lots which they intend to put a mobile home.

According to Rountree, farmers who have traditionally rented out parcels of land for extra income would be prohibited to do so according to the current ordinance.

&uot;What is the difference between a farmer renting his land for farming as opposed to a residential rental agreement?&uot; Rountree asked. &uot;There are legal issues here that need to be revisited.&uot;

Cahoon informed those in attendance that the current specifications and maps were still awaiting final approval by the county commissioners and his office would field requests and concerns at the next planning board meeting scheduled for 3p.m. on January 16.