Historic Large-Scale Zoning of Eno Economic Development District May Happen Tomorrow Night

On the heels of summer, while citizens are getting back from other pursuits, the County is poised to solidify an historic rezoning of a community that had the misfortune to be in an Economic Development District that was conceived of theoretically about twenty years ago. The Eno district, one of three, was generally identified as a place for future business zoning in the early 90's. Nothing was done for a couple of decades. People moved into the area, built community connections, and were unaware of the land-use designation that lay several layers deep in the County's casual planning scheme.

 As a member of the County Planning Board, I heard a large number of individuals express their confusion and dismay last spring that their neighborhood was going to be irrevocably altered to accept a variety of businesses. This has not slowed down the County staff, led by assertive Manager Frank Clifton who is focused on the nebulous concept of economic development to bring in tax dollars. This effort to fast-track the Eno EDD rezoniong is likely linked to the fact that the BOCC has several lame-ducks (Foushee moving on to run for State office, and Hemminger & Yuhascz turned out by the voters) who will support this rough-shod initiative that will run over the sentiments of the community. Clifton certainly does not want to present this to the new Board who will assume their seats in December, the new board that will better represent to will of the voters. And, observers of the compliant BOCC will concur, Clifton has managed to make himself more of a CEO than a public servant.

This process is being fast-tracked to the detriment of not only the community, but to the vision of Orange County that we share. Nothing good can come of tax dollars raised at the expense of compromised democracy and lack of respect for neighborhoods. Frankly, there are parts of this rezoning plan that could work. But not this wholesale, fast-track shake-up of the community.

 Furthermore, I know that there are members of both the BOCC and the Planning Board that never explored the streets and neighborhoods of the Eno EDD to see first-hand what the lay of the land is. It is unconscionable to make decisions that will affect so many people's lives based upon some vague maps in an agenda packet.

I'm not sure if the rubber-stamping can be postponed so we can have the full discussion that something of this magnitude deeserves but,  in the limited time available before tomorrow night's meeting,  folks need to be made aware of the issue and the power politics at play on the county level.

Total votes: 148

Comments

The county voted in a quarter cent sales tax last year with the understanding that 50% of the generated revenue would be used for economic development, including the installation of water and sewer in the EDDs. And that was after trying to implement the same tax 2 years earlier. So I'm a little confused about why you saying this is being railroaded through. Mark, you yourself wrote "
County leadership has let the Economic Development Districts go undeveloped for way too long"
 as part of a discussion on that sales tax. Penny chaired the outreach committee to help push the tax through. So I'm a little confused about why you are opposing moving forward.

Concerns about how the economic-development funds would be used are not new. Those of us (that is, me) who grudgingly voted for the tax did so in the hope that the county commissioners would bring some fresh thinking to their approach to the EDDs, despite the county manager clinging to a notion of economic development that was becoming outmoded even back when the EDDs were created. To quote myself from last year:

Like Kirk Ross, "I’m troubled by an infusion of tax dollars into an economic-development effort that doesn’t seem to have found its footing yet." I'm also skeptical about the willingness of the county commissioners to think creatively about economic development, to privilege independent locally owned businesses, or to give priority to initiatives that promote sustainable land use planning over sprawling office parks and retail developments. (Read the county manager's uninspiring vision for economic development here. While you're at it, ask yourself why it's the county manager articulating the vision rather than the commissioners.)

Regardless of how the funds might be used, the issue of preparing these corridors for commercial isn't new, as Mark is proposing when he complains of the issue being "fast-tracked." Anyone living in one of those corridors has to have known what was being planned for several years now. They may not like it, and they may feel the concept of the EDD is an encroachment on their neighborhood/property. But feeling marginalized/unhappy is different from being kept in the dark.

The whole issue of how neighborhoods are supported/involved in growth planning deserves a rigorous discussion. 

I was on the Economic Development Commission in the late 90's. A hot topic of conversation was the EDD's, yet there was nothing to talk about. No plan, no water, no creativity to make it happen. A plan should have been presented to the citizenry back in the days when the EDD's were put forward.  The tax was not portrayed as a direct fund-raiser for the  EDD's. In fact, I asked Clifton about water & the EDD's at a BOCC quarterly public hearing and his answer made me question if English was in fact our native language. So I'll just say that equating the $.25 economic development tax with endorsement of force-feeding commercial zoning on rural neighborhoods is something that makes no sense in my experience. Actually, no-one knew exactly what the sales tax revenues would be used for. I was surprised - pleasantly - that the sewag snafu off Main St. in Carrboro was awarded some money from that fund. I guess if you want to make that connection, I'd be persuaded if you got 20 or 30 residents of the Eno EDD to say that they knew that the 1/4 cent sales tax meant that their community would be radically rezoned.  

I didn't vote for the quarter cent sales tax.  The BOCC (read Clifton) took the opportunity of little rural voter turn-out to slide it through after a previous rejection. Sleazy. I would have voted for it in an election with integrity.This is what is going on - a game of taking political advantage (driven by Clifton) to impose a generic econ dev strategy straight out of the profits-first Chamber of Commerce playbook. If it's successful, we may need another county motto.

I share the concern about the speed of rezoning of the Eno EDD and hopefully the neighbors will come out. Much of it sits on highways and rail and is well suited to economic development.  But the community needs to be engaged and the zoning needs to assure that compatible uses are adjacent to residences.  Unfortunately I'm not close to the action on this one.  I beleive that the community is engaged. I plan to watch the broadcast of the meeting tonight.

That said the 1/4 cent sales tax has nothing to do with the EDDs. The county maintains a separate fund $15 million over 5 years to fund water and sewer infrastruction for the EDDs.  Some of it is grant funded - not sure how much is coming out of the county's tax funds.  

I don't believe that any of the sales tax is used for the water and sewer infrastructure.  The sales tax money is going to small business loans, the food processing center and other local initiatives.

I voted for the sales tax the first time- when it was on the countywide ballot. Like Mark, I voted against it when it was placed on the ballot during a municipal elsection.  Sleazy is the perfect adjective.

Bonnie Hauser

I didn't get a chance to comment on this thread today, but I share Mark M's concerns and planed to say so at tonight's Commissioners meeting. However, it turns out they will not take an new comment because the rezoning application is complete and the public hearing was not publicly noticed as such.I will still be live-tweeting the meeting at http://twitter.com/orangepolitics 

Sorry that my tweeting skills don't work. Here's what I saw.

The county backed off on some of the rezoning - a good thing. There was a single 95 acre parcel where - despite citizen objections- the BoCC voted 5-2 to change the landuse - without changing the zoning.  The five board members seemed anxious to move this forward - despite the obvious contradiction in land use and zoning.

Nice work by Barry and Alice to honestly articulate the implications of changing the land use plans with out changing the zoning.   Unfortunately the rest of the board seemed anxious to get this passed before the board changes in December.

I hope the citizens were watching

Bonnie 

Hey what happened to my posts - there were 2 - but until now, I didnt have a proper user id.   On one comment, I clarified that the 1/4 cent sales tax isn't being used for water and sewer in the EDDS (instead the county has a $15 million capital fund for the projectsMy other comment was about how fascinating it was to watch the commissioners push the Eno EDD rezoning.  Thanks to commissioners Gordon and Jacobs, its clear that the board voted 5-2 to change the underlying land use (to commercial) without changing the zoning *residential) for a 95 acre parcel.  Did they think we wouldn't notice?  I was proud of Barry and Alice for painfully walking us all through what was happening. I think it's called "transparency" To me, the incredible part was how quickly the other five commissioners wanted to push this through and avoid the discussion. Scripted comments to obscure the contradictory land use.   And they stumbled over procedure every step of the way.  I'm guessing Mark nailed it. They wanted to pass this before the board changed. Bonnie Hauser

Bonnie (and others) - For your comments to be published automatically, you must log in. Otherwise, they disappear into a vast ocean of other anonymous comments, spam, and robot droppings which your friendly editors have limited time to address. Logging in = comments appearing automatically. Not logging in = comments appearing late or never. Thank you.

Thanks for clarification - now my postings are up twice.  Sorry for being redundant.  Nice job tweeting the meeting last night. Its facinating to realize how many people are watching the videos and/or watching the tweets.  Bonnie Hauser

 

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