Polk cuts controversial section from UDO

Published 7:26 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

Public hearing restructured, moved to Polk high school
Polk County’s proposal to combine all its ordinances into one unified development ordinance (UDO) with changes to some regulations has caused controversy among many residents. The disagreements came to a head during the county’s Monday, Sept. 10 meeting held at the Polk County Middle School.
Commissioners ended the discussion by agreeing to delete a controversial section from the proposed UDO and to allow the Sept. 17 public hearing to include a question and answer session during which county officials will answer questions from the audience. The public hearing will be held on Monday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. In anticipation of crowds, the county has changed the location of the public hearing to the Polk County High School Auditorium.
The now deleted section 4.1.1 stated, “The administrator is hereby authorized to enforce the provisions of this ordinance. This official shall have the right to enter upon any premises regulated by this ordinance at any reasonable time necessary to carry out his/her duties. It is the intention of this ordinance that all questions arising in connection with enforcement and interpretation shall be presented first to the Administrator. Appeal from his/her decision may be made to the board of adjustment.”
The section did not include any verbiage about entering premises with a search warrant as section 1.8.3 does, so many residents have said the county is ignoring citizens’ rights under the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Advertisements paid for by PolkCountyLiberty.org have appeared in the Bulletin regarding section 4.1.1, urging residents to attend the Sept. 17 public hearing.
County attorney Mike Egan began UDO discussions on Monday by saying the second sentence seems to be one that is causing controversy and recommended deleting the sentence. Egan said he is not sure why that version was placed in the ordinance and said it’s not necessary.
“Regardless of what the ordinance says, a zoning administrator, just like a deputy, is sworn to uphold the constitution,” Egan said. “(Removing the sentence) may reduce the alarm in some folks about what the zoning administrator might try to do.”
Commissioner Tom Pack questioned why the section was put in there to start with and questioned why it is now that the county is trying to change it.
Commissioner vice-chair Renée McDermott said she requested from the planner’s office the procedure the administrator has to comply with for state and federal law. She said the county has to go to a magistrate with a sworn statement indicating why the administrator would enter someone’s premise in order to receive a warrant. McDermott also said the warrant is good for 24 hours and the administrator is allowed to search only things specified in the warrant.
Pack said words mean something and everything needs to be written down. He also said that concern over section 4.1.1 has been brought up before and it should’ve been taken care of already.
Pack also said he is concerned about a memo McDermott wrote to commissioners that he said attacked a citizen, William Day. According to Pack, McDermott said in her memo that Day shouted “liar” to her during a Republican Party meeting held in July. McDermott said she stood by what she said in her memo, and Pack responded he had a video to prove Day did not call McDermott a liar. Pack showed the video and asked that McDermott publicly apologize.
After the video, McDermott said that at some point during that meeting someone did shout “liar” and that while she was speaking Day did say “sophistry,” which she said means lying.
Following the video, Pack said he thinks the whole section of 4.1.1 should be deleted and asked why commissioners need to address it during the meeting when the county has a hearing on Sept. 17.
McDermott said one reason to address it is because there have been attack advertisements in the paper.
“I believe that now is the time to lay it to rest,” McDermott said.
She made a motion to delete the entire section of 4.1.1 from the UDO draft, which was approved unanimously. McDermott then read a statement regarding what she said was misinformation regarding the proposed UDO (see full statement, page 6).
In the statement, McDermott said that in 2008 when the UDO got going it was a bipartisan effort. The statement said Ted Owens seconded the motion to hire Holland Consulting to help the citizen group with the project and that Pack voted for and helped select committee members.
Pack disagreed with that part of the statement, saying he did vote for a comprehensive plan but did not vote for the UDO. Pack said his original take on the UDO was that the county was going to take existing ordinances and roll them into one, including charts so if a citizen wanted to do something they knew what to comply with.
“What we’ve got here is 400 pages of legalese,” said Pack. “They (officials in favor of the UDO) say it gives more and it doesn’t.”
McDermott said her statement said the UDO process got started then and that she took her information about the votes from exactly the same meeting minutes Pack referred to.
Pack mentioned that in the proposed UDO, Deb’s Mini Mart will not be a permitted use, but conditional.
“This needs a lot of changes. Otherwise, you’re going to shut down this county economically,” said Pack. “It’s wrong. You’ve got to stop it. Be honest with the people. Be honest with us.”
County staff will try to answer questions from the public concerning the draft UDO during the public hearing. The county has asked that any questions be submitted at or prior to the public hearing either in writing or by email and directed to Cathy Ruth at planning@polknc.org.
The draft UDO is available for public review on the county website at http://www.polknc.org/departments/development/documents/udo9.17.12draft.pdf. Copies are also available at the Polk County Library in Columbus and Saluda, or in the county manager’s office in Columbus.
Questions regarding the UDO can be directed to the Polk County Planning Department at 828-894-2732.
A full list of changes to the UDO is available at www.tryondailybulletin.com.

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