McDermott makes statement on UDO at county meeting

Published 7:27 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

Editor’s note: Below is a statement read by Polk County commissioner Renée McDermott during the county’s Monday, Sept. 10 meeting held at the Polk County Middle School regarding the proposed unified development ordinance (UDO).
It is clear that someone is spending very large amounts of money on ads to say that:
We are trying to take their land and their rights away with the UDO.
And that we, and especially I, are trying to “ram” the UDO through before the election.
Well, I don’t want to do any of that.  I want to make sure that Polk County citizens have a set of ordinances they understand, that they feel is credible and that they can believe in.
The great majority of the UDO is not anything new. It is just the gathering together of a number of Polk County ordinances that have been in place for many years, some since the early 1970s. But that’s not well known. And neither is the fact that much of the newer parts of the document soften the regulations in the zoned areas of the county. For instance, these new parts give more opportunities for people to operate businesses at their homes. They allow more kinds of land uses in the MU zoning district. The UDO does not add any zoning, none at all, and it will not. Not in White Oak Township; not in Coopers Gap Township; not anywhere.
The UDO is the result of work by more than 100 Polk County citizens since at least 2003, people who come from all walks of life in the county and from all of the townships in the county. In 2008, when the UDO itself actually got going, this was a bipartisan effort. Ted Owens seconded the motion to hire Holland Consulting to help the citizen group with this project. Tom Pack voted for it, too. And Tom Pack helped select the committee members.
It’s time to set the record straight. I take citizens’ rights very seriously. I am concerned about peoples’ rights as much as anybody in the county. My life has been about concern for peoples’ rights. I have always fought for open and responsive government. I am going to ask for more transparency and that additional accurate information be provided to the people so that they can come to feel that their land and rights are not in danger.
And I want to set the record straight on one more thing. As a member of the UDO committee, I strongly argued against, and voted against, applying the slopes ordinance in the UDO to the entire county. I argued against expanding the slopes regulations to the lower elevation parts of Polk County. If anyone tells you anything different (and people are spreading that misinformation), it is just plain not true.
The UDO process has become highly politicized, and so much intentionally false information is being circulated. That is just plain wrong. This politicized atmosphere is not the atmosphere in which to cast such an important vote. The UDO process needs to be separated from politics.
Much more needs to be done before a vote should be set. I want everyone to have a full opportunity to ask questions, to get answers, and to let the commissioners know what their concerns and desires are. This includes all the commissioners.
The UDO process is a good opportunity to show we can work together as a board to give people a full voice and address their concerns, without making this a political football.
We need to get this right. People know that adoption of the UDO is important to me. But it’s far more important for me to know that it is done correctly, and openly, and fairly.
Therefore, I move that the board of commissioners commit not to vote on the UDO until:
We hold a question and answer session for the public on Sept. 17, instead of the public hearing, with Planning Director Cathy Ruth and Planning Department Attorney Mike Egan present to answer the public’s questions;
The commissioners list their concerns in writing and share them among our board before holding one or more workshops;
A public hearing is held to obtain the public’s comments and concerns about the UDO;
The content of the public’s comments at the public hearing, and the commissioners’ concerns and workshop results, are sent to the planning board for review and consideration; and
The planning board returns a responsive report to the commissioners.
If necessary, we hold an additional public hearing or vote on the UDO if no additional hearing is needed.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox