State law derails decision

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, May 4, 2011

JACKSON — Despite doubts for some county officials, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners will have to wait one year to re-address their recent decision regarding amendments the county’s Subdivision Regulations.

On Monday, the commissioners discussed their decision, with some board members expressing a change of opinion on the matter.

At their April 18 meeting, the board shot down a proposed amendment to the county’s Subdivision Regulations as submitted by a developer’s group.

Currently, Article VIII, Section A of the Subdivision Regulation allow only two driveway connections and one road connection per parent tract on record with the county as of December 8, 2002.

The amendment, if it had passed, would have eliminated the maximum number of driveways and road connections allowed by the regulations with the exception of US and NC designated roads along with River and Jackson Bypass roads.

Upon reviewing the amendment, the Northampton County Planning Board gave it a non-favorable recommendation, citing “safety issues and poor development practices.”

The commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the Planning Board’s recommendation to keep the regulation as is. Commission Vice Chair James Hester as well as Commissioners Virginia Spruill and Robert Carter voted for the motion while Commission Chair Fannie Greene and Commissioner Chester Deloatch voiced opposition.

The commissioners’ Monday discussion was prompted by a letter from Phillip Moncure of Moncure Mobile Homes to County Manager Wayne Jenkins.

“I would like to request that the Amendments for the Subdivision Regulations be resubmitted to the Commissioners. It appeared, after William Flynn’s (Planning and Zoning Director) report, that the Commissioners did not fully understand what the Amendments contained,” the letter states. “Also it was evident that the Commissioners were confused.”

Carter responded to the letter by saying he was of the opinion that when the board acts on a matter that they not revisit the issue for a period of time.

“I would say of a period of at least six months, because sometimes when we revisit an issue it is the appearance that we don’t know what we’re doing, we’re wishy-washy,” he said. “I would go further to say especially when it’s an issue that is defeated.”

Carter added if the issue is defeated and one of the three members or more members that voted for the issue discovers new information he had no problem with bringing it back.

“But if no new discoveries are made, then this board should not entertain it over a period of six months,” he said.

Spruill agreed, saying that was the practice the board had retained over the years.

“I am under the same assumption as Mr. Carter in that unless there is additional information (that would affect how board members vote) we would not entertain revisiting the issue,” she said.

Deloatch, who was originally in favor of the amendment, said he disagreed with Carter and Spruill.

“Other towns are growing, Northampton County is losing population,” he said. “You travel outside of Northampton County (in) Bertie County, Highway 308, five miles into Bertie County you’ve got more traveling on Highway 308 than probably any road in Northampton County.”

He noted on that road there are double driveways on each side of the road as well as Highway 903 heading toward Williamston.

“Northampton County ranks the poorest and we’re going to remain poor because we can’t get no jobs or tax dollars out of the houses,” he said. “I think we better wake up.”

Hester said he was concerned that the only people the board was hearing from on the issue was developers and those selling homes.

“I would like to see some citizens here saying, ‘I want to build a house, I want to build two or three houses’,” he said. “I’ve revisited the amendment and I realize that it does allow some building that ordinarily would not be allowed. I know that we’re in dire straits and I would change my opinion from last (meeting) and I would vote to accept the amendment.”

Greene, who was originally for the amendment, thought the board should re-examine the amendment as well.

“It was clear there was some confusion, but when the letter came in, I thought we needed to revisit this matter so that everyone was on the same accord,” she said.

“There may have been some confusion, but I will submit to you that the confusion came about not because of the amendment that was presented or the recommendation given by the planning board,” responded Spruill. “The confusion came about because of the fact that we really had not looked at what was in the Subdivision Regulations. If you look at it, you’ll understand what the Planning Board was talking about.”

Spruill suggested that before the board goes into these intricate types of decisions they look at the regulations and that the commissioners are familiar with what they are discussing.

She reiterated that there had not been any additional information that warrants the board to revisit the issue.

“Let us not keep on flip-flopping, no matter the issue,” said Carter.

After further discussion, Greene noted she was concerned about hindering revenue (in the form of new property taxpayers) as well as the safety of the citizens.

Spruill noted she was not against revisiting the amendment, but wanted time between the last decision and the revisiting.

“We ought to know what we’re doing,” she said in regards to each board member reading the Subdivision Regulations.

County Attorney Charles Vaughan noted there may be a statutory requirement as to how much time has to lapse before the board could revisit the topic.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins noted that Robert’s Rules of Order for the board to reconsider the amendment a motion must be made at the same meeting at which the original vote is taken and by a member that voted with the prevailing side.

Jenkins said the board could also place a motion for the matter not to come back before them for a period of time, but that motion would have to have been made at the same meeting as the original decision.

After further research by Vaughan, it was revealed in the county’s Zoning Ordinance (created by state statute) that when a petition for amendment is denied a period of 12 months must lapse before another petition for the same change can be submitted.