and PLANNING ( or lack of):
I am not well versed in the art of politics, but after reading about and living with the development nightmare for the last year, I felt I had to offer an opinion of my view on the subject.
I read in Sunday's New Herald that a zoning reform committee was formed to address development. Because of new flood plain regulations, our planner claims we have to incorporate new green space guidelines. Maybe I read this wrong and I hope that someone will correct me, if I am wrong. What I read was that instead of simply requiring green space to proposed development, they now propose to increase density and spoke of giving the developer a tax break to do so. Does no one see a problem here? Now we plan to accommodate more development by allowing them to stack the houses, or cram them closer together. How does this solve any problem?
Schools are clamoring for more money because of overcrowding and commission is proposing new tax hikes come election. We tried taxing development with the adequate facilities tax, which for some reason must not be working. Our sewer systems are so overtaxed that we now dump sewage into the river. This is all coming from our pockets folks, and destroying our quality of life- and possibly our planet.
I want to give credit where credit is due. We have none other than John Russell Newman Jr., community planner, to thank for most of this, in my opinion. And of course his job is sanctioned by the actions of county commission.
I wonder why no one is clamoring to have this man's head. His job description says it is his responsibility to see to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of this community. That is the biggest joke of all, if you look around. Big development is allowed to build on substandard roads that affect every person's safety (Harrison Road comes to mind). Infrastructure is not being taken into account at all. Along with global warming, we can add water pollution for every ounce of waste dumped into our water supply. It is this man's job to put rules and regulations into place that see to OUR- the people who pay his salary- welfare. Instead, he is off making his own profit by making side deals to acquire property to join in on the development. While that is not against the law, in my opinion, it is unethical and should never been allowed to continue. Officials ARE aware of the problem.
In case someone dares to say that I do not know what I am talking about, you obviously did not read the News Herald last year. In March 2006, Waters Edge Development asked for preliminary plat approval of a 32-unit condominium site. Their first step was to be annexed into the city. While the city was within their rights to annex the property, I feel that the developers should have been warned of problems concerning their proposal.
One problem in their path was that sometime before, a developer wanted to build a development on a substandard road. After a threat of a lawsuit, he was allowed to do so. Newman then proposed, and got approval, of a new subdivision regulation that stated that no subdivision of over 5 lots would be approved unless the road had a minimum width of 18í. The county, where the property lay, adopted this regulation in November of 2005,Lenoir City following in April of 2006.
The problem facing my neighborhood was that several of the homes on the road were very close to the road, and any widening of the road may have cost my neighbors their property. Our other choice was to be put in the line of danger every time a truck came down the road to service that building site, and the threat of adding 32 or more vehicles to an already too narrow road, once the properties sold.
The property was annexed into the city, and then the road studies began. The first study consisted of two people sitting at the entrance to our road, who clicked a button on a box each time a vehicle entered or exited our road. This did account for the traffic entering and exiting, but had a huge margin for human error. The second study consisted of two cables being placed between my driveway and the developerís property across the street. Our properties are located approximately at the halfway mark of the total length of that road, and the study totally disregarded any traffic on the first half of it.
Mr. Newman argued emphatically that both studies stated that added traffic from the development would have no significant impact on the road. What he failed to mention to the board was that a previous study had been done of the road by the schools transportation department. Mr. Newman himself sat on the board and knew that our road was judged to be the eighth most dangerous in the county.
We were fortunate in that the planning commission DID get the point. You do not make laws, then turn around and break them to do a favor for a developer. The developers were given approval, contingent upon acquiring easements to build their own road. While it did cost more to the developer, it turned out to be a win-win situation for all so far.
If development must come, let it be at the cost of those doing the developing. Most do not even live in the county and could care less about what happens when they leave.
Ultimately, it is OUR quality of life at issue, and it concerns us all. We cannot stop development, but if enough people try, I do believe we can have something to do with the outcome of that development. Making Newman do his job is a start. If he cannot, then we must blame those officials who allow it, and ask why they DO allow it. Maybe that reason can explain it all.