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November 23. 2005 12:00AM

County tables new rules for subdivisions

The Dispatch
A complex and controversial new type of subdivision ordinance will not be tried in Davidson County any time soon, it appears.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the county commissioners formally tabled discussion of adequate public facilities ordinances.

Such regulations aim to keep residential growth from outpacing public facilities, primarily schools. When facilities are determined to be inadequate, developers could be assessed fees to help the county build more classroom space.

The board and county staff have been studying the matter since April. County Manager Robert Hyatt, who provided an 80-page information packet but no formal recommendation at the meeting, said he was seeking direction.

"If you're looking for direction, I'm thinking we might need to look the other way," said Commissioner Sam Watford, who is a utilities excavating business owner.

Larry Potts, a builder and developer, made a motion that the issue be tabled until one of the commissioners brings it up again or someone comes up with another approach. Cindy Akins, who works for a developer, offered a second to his motion.

Max Walser brought the idea to the commissioners after they discussed long-range school construction needs at their planning retreat in February.

Walser, who voted with his six colleagues to table the discussion, said he was "not married to the concept."

"All I would ask is that you not close the door," he said.

Davidson County voters approved two bond referendums Nov. 8 that will provide $5.2 million for Davidson County Community College and $66.4 million to be split among the three county school systems. Walser called that "a short-term, maybe five-year, solution."

"I just know that property taxes in and of themselves are not going to take care of our needs for school facilities in the future," Walser noted.

Hyatt and his staff spent months gathering information from four counties that have adopted the ordinances and from the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Based on his findings, he said two common misconceptions are assuming that adequate public facilities ordinances are guaranteed to slow growth or to generate substantial revenues from fees.

Because enacting the regulations requires officials to define what adequate facilities are and to spell out when and how the county will provide them, the ordinance would be most effective in creating a more formal process and timeline for long-range capital building plans, he noted.

Hyatt and the commissioners touched on numerous thorny problems, such as how to administer the ordinance fairly throughout a large county and among different types of home buyers.

Davidson is quickly becoming urbanized in the north and remains largely rural in the south. Families with several children could avoid fees tied to the ordinance if they purchased an older home for resale while an older or childless couple would incur higher costs in a new subdivision.

"The mechanics of it would be a nightmare," Potts observed.

Charles Rothrock, representing the Davidson County Home Builders Association, spoke against the ordinance during public address time at the beginning of the meeting. He argued that fees associated with the ordinance would raise home prices beyond the reach of some buyers.

Afterward, about a half-dozen residents of northeast Davidson County who support an ordinance expressed frustration that discussion of the subject has been suspended. They say High Point residents moving into the area have helped fuel the rapid growth that is overburdening schools.

"It's just a small way to help take some of the pressure off future tax increases," Jim Hobson said of the ordinance. "Davidson County taxpayers need to be prepared to pay higher property taxes to educate High Point's kids."

Bill Schafer said he will raise the issue with commissioner candidates seeking votes in the election next year.

In other business, the commissioners:

  • Approved a contract with Davis-Martin-Powell & Associates to manage construction of a new sewer line to Silver Valley Elementary School. Administering it is projected to cost $29,000. Engineering and design are budgeted at $42,000. Easements are slated to cost $15,000, and construction is estimated at $724,250. With a $65,750 contingency, the total project is expected to cost $876,000.

  • Appropriated $37,572 for legal expenses in a lawsuit filed against the county by Corr Services, a former private provider of child support enforcement services. The county agreed in September to settle the lawsuit by paying Corr Services $351,000.

  • Accepted a donation of about six acres of land stretching along the edge of the Northside neighborhood in Lexington. Manly Byerly, who developed the subdivision decades ago, said he originally set aside the 50-foot wide strip of land for a sewer line that was later placed under a street. County officials said the land could be used as a greenway and walking trail in the future.

    Eric Frazier can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 226, or eric.frazier@the-dispatch.com.

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