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Supporters say politics killed UDO

Published 11:04pm Sunday, February 9, 2014

Some supporters of Polk County’s drafted unified development ordinance (UDO) say the document is dead because it was politically assassinated.

The Bulletin recently asked county commissioners if the UDO is dead after the county and volunteers spent two years working on combining the county’s ordinance. The county spent approximately $74,000 on attorneys and a consultant creating the document.

The county has not mentioned the UDO during a meeting since Feb. 4, 2013, when the board tabled work on the ridgeline section of the UDO.

The majority of commissioners responded that the board has focused on other priorities.

Commissioner Tom Pack responded that just because a small vocal group doesn’t like the way something looks, it does not give them the right to trample on someone else’s dreams or rights. Pack said the county doesn’t need an ordinance telling people what their house or property should look like and that is exactly where the majority of the previous two boards went with the document. He said trying to organize existing ordinances and make sure they don’t conflict with one another is important, but the previous majority gave the UDO a bad name and the document should not be revived.

Mark Byington, who served as chair of the UDO committee, said “the UDO is dead because it was politically assassinated.”

Byington said the UDO was developed by a diverse group of community leaders as a response to a community-wide desire to provide for good management of future development. He said the document although carefully and painstakingly crafted by a bi-partisan committee, was falsely represented to have a liberal agenda in order to rally votes against its supporters.

“That mantra is still being sung, with a current commissioner stating last month that ‘we don’t need an ordinance (UDO) telling people what their house or property should look like,’” Byington said. “As Mr. Pack knows, that statement is simply not true. Many believe it was a $74,000 waste of money. I believe it was a $74,000 campaign to get elected.

“When the people of this community again stand up for belief in the common good, the UDO may find life again. Until then, may it rest in peace.”

Former county commissioner and UDO committee member Renée McDermott said as long as the current majority is still in office, “the UDO is, indeed, dead.”

She said that’s perplexing to her, because current commissioners Pack and Ted Owens voted to hire the Wilmington consultant who assisted with the 20/20 vision plan and the UDO. She said Owens and Pack also voted to spend $74,000 on the project.

“For Pack and Owens to say that they think the vision plan is great, but the UDO a grab of property rights, is nonsensical,” McDermott said. “The UDO working group was told to carefully study the vision plan and put it into effect.   That’s exactly what they did, no more.”

McDermott said Pack’s statement that the UDO takes away property rights or tells people what their house or property should look like is a lie, plain and simple.

“The group of citizens who drafted the UDO were careful not to include anything like that,” McDermott said. “During the last election, nearly everything Pack and Owens and the rest of their majority now on the board of commissioners said about the UDO were shameful lies.”

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