Town of Maggie Valley
Regularly Scheduled Board of Aldermen
July 20, 2004
Members Present: Mayor Jo Pinter Aldermen: Linda Taylor
Members Absent: Alderman Jim Higel
Staff Present: Manager Scott Buffkin, Chief Scott Sutton, CEO/ Planner Kevin Byrd, Building Inspector Glen Crowell and Town Clerk Vickie Best
Planning Board Present: Chairman Patricia Tilley, Joann Lyons, and Jerry Zerbock
Others Present: Approximately 26 people were in attendance.
Meeting Called to Order
Mayor Pinter called the meeting to order at 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday July 20, 2004 in the Town Hall Boardroom.
Pastor Jason Ledford gave the invocation and led the audience in the pledge of allegiance.
Ms. Lori Nix requested to be removed from the agenda.
Mayor Pinter reminded everyone of bingo on Thursday nights, and the Civic Association is working on a plaque honoring Miss Jenny for the waterfall in front of town hall.
Chamber events: EInternational bazaar with crafts and new car show (this weekend)
EStreet dance with crafters and food (July 31st)
EMaggie Valley goes to Foley Alabama in November 3 for their fair. Maggie Valley was the third city to connect with Foley Alabama. The Chamber hopes the entire city council joins them as we take our heritage to Foley. The Cherokee Indians, some clogging teams, and Raymond Fairchild will accompany the chamber to Foley.
The Foley people said that Maggie Valley was the best exchange they have had. Next year Foley will be going to Branson Missouri doing whistle stops along the way.
Alderman Taylor updated council on the Soco Road improvements project. The first phase of the road will be complete by the end of November. Tribal Council feel they were successful in Washington and hope to have an additional seven million dollars to help complete the next phase from approximately “Granny’s Suttons” to Frank Mehaffey Road.
Mayor Pinter reported that the town has lost an important member of the community who served as alderman for the town of Maggie Valley from 1993 until 1997. “Robert Thoresen had a lot of love in his heart for Maggie Valley” Mayor Pinter asked for the board’s approval to do a resolution and have it mounted to a plaque to give to the family commending him for his service to his community.
ALDERMAN TAYLOR MADE A MOTION TO APPROVE THE RESOLUTION, WITH THE WORDING TO BE FINALIZED, PUT IT ON A PLAQUE, AND PRESENT IT TO THE FAMILY.
ALDERMAN DEMEOLA SECONDED THE MOTION.
MOTION CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
Manager Buffkin introduced two new employees. Mr. Glen Crowell will be taking Mr. George Bage’s position as the Maggie Valley Building Inspector. Mr. Bage has resigned from his position. Mr. Bage will help orientate Mr. Crowell with Maggie Valley.
Mr. Kevin Byrd is doing an internship with Maggie Valley to assist with planning and zoning with the hopes that it will turn into a long term position.
Dan Massey asked council to schedule a public hearing for chasing lights at the next meeting. Mr. Massey got a petition from business owners that agree the town needs more lighting, more excitement. Mr. Massey was previously misinformed about the state prohibiting chasing lights. Mr. Massey asked that Manager Buffkin and Aldermen DeMeola work with him to gather details and facts pertaining to chasing lights.
Manager Buffkin informed council that the planning board has not had the opportunity to review the issue. Conducting a public hearing does not obligate the board to make a decision.
Manager Buffkin has the NCDOT policy manual.
Chairman Tilley spoke from the floor reporting that there are some questions remaining. NCDOT out of Raleigh referred Ms. Tilley to research Federal guidelines since Soco Road is federally funded.
ALDERMAN TAYLOR MADE A MOTION TO SET AUGUST 17, 2004 FOR A PUBLIC HEARING ON CHASING LIGHTS.
ALDERMAN DEMEOLA SECONDED THE MOTION.
Setting the public hearing for August 17, 2004 will allow the planning board to meet prior to the hearing.
Ms. Zap Zarza introduced herself stating that she would soon be a citizen and has had a wonderful welcome by the chamber, merchants, and the town staff. Ms. Zarza offered to volunteer to help with any programs or wherever she may be needed.
Ms. Agnes Moody stated that the grant funding should be used to take the flower beds out of the highway.
Mr. Wade Reece stated that he opposes the 3% bed tax and presented officials with a petition from lodging owners opposing the bed tax and also stating that they were never contacted by anyone to discuss the issue. The petition has been mailed to state representative and the county commissioners. “No one wants additional taxes.”
The state allows a six percent bed tax. Mayor Pinter stated that the motion was to obtain the authority to collect the remaining three percent that the county is currently not collecting. “This would give Maggie Valley the ability to collect the additional bed tax in the event the lodging owners wished to enact it.”
Alderman Taylor explained that she felt it prudent to say there is the opportunity for Maggie Valley to control its own destiny. “The opportunity will only lie on the shelve so long, before the county takes the money. It is dead in the water in Raleigh.” Mr. R.B. Coburn spent over $400,000 in advertising Ghost Town which in turned advertised Maggie Valley. Now that Ghost Town is closed the advertising is gone. “We need to replace that advertising somehow.” Alderman Taylor commended Mr. Reece on his business sense and use of advertising.. “We need to promote ourselves.”
Mayor Pinter added that before a bed tax was imposed there would be a public hearing and the lodging owners would need to support the effort.
ALDERMAN TAYLOR MADE A MOTION TO EXCUSE ALDERMAN ALDRIDGE AT 6:05 P.M.
ALDERMAN DEMEOLA SECONDED THE MOTION.
Alderman Aldridge was excused from the meeting at 6:05 p.m.
Chief Sutton reported that police calls are well above last years figures.
4The Police Department now issues burning permits.
4The 4th of July went well with no reported incidents.
4The craft show went well with no traffic problems although there are still problems with people parking at Cabbage Rose. Gene Lummus pays for a police officer to keep people from parking in Cabbage Rose parking lot.
êThe Festival Ground Sign will be installed at the end of the week.
êThe streetscape project is moving forward. Will wait until November 2004 to beginning the work so there will be no construction projects affecting traffic during the color season.
ê The Hemlock Loop Drive paving project was awarded to WNC Paving at a cost of $11,942.
ê The Employee health insurance was reduced in cost by 5% effective August 1, 2004
Annual Settlement of Taxes
Each year the tax collector is required to provide an annual settlement of taxes. This settlement represents the original tax levy, the releases, discoveries, adjustments, schedule of ad valorem taxes receivable, any small over/under payments, and the list of outstanding taxes for the past ten years. By state statute tax liens have a ten-year statute of limitations. Therefore, any taxes from tax year 1993 are now un-collectable. As you can see in the packet, the Town staff has collected all of the taxes levied that year except $207.00. This equals approximately one tenth of one percent (0.01%) of the total levy that year. This is an excellent collection percentage that represents many hours of effort by Town staff, both past and present, to assure that the Town’s revenues are protected and that all taxpayers are treated equally.
Council commended Ms. Wheeler on the outstanding collection rate and asked that Manager Buffkin convey their appreciation.
Manager Buffkin reported that the total levy has increased from $204,000 to $700,000 since 1993.
ALDERMAN DEMEOLA MADE A MOTION TO APPROVE THE SETTLEMENT.
ALDERMAN TAYLOR SECONDED THE MOTION.
Order of Collection
The order of collection is a necessary step in the property tax collection process. The order is basically the Board’s directive to the staff to collect property taxes that are owed the Town. This may seem to be a trivial step but the state statutes require that this be done formally, so that there is no doubt.
Liens have been placed on all properties with outstanding balances for previous years in an effort to collect when and if the property is sold.
ALDERMAN TAYLOR MADE A MOTION TO APPROVE THE ORDER OF COLLECTION.
ALDERMAN DEMEOLA SECONDED THE MOTION.
Public Hearing- Minimum Lot Sizes.
Mayor Pinter opened the public hearing.
Planning Board Chairman Patricia Tilley addressed council stating that there are basically two requests. Change the names of the zoning districts, an example being Residential 1 (R1) to Residential 14 representing 14,000 square feet. Changing the names of the districts will reflect the square footage.
Before going into the second request to enlarge the lost sizes Chairman Tilley read from section 1100 of the zoning ordinance.
The Town of Maggie Valley finds that Maggie Valley is blessed with a diverse and abundant cover of trees and vegetation, which is of general aesthetic value to the Town; that the ecological diversity and richness of the town make it a desirable place for residents, owners and visitors alike; that the appearance of Maggie Valley from the public ways contributes to the growth and economic prosperity of the town; and that the growth and development attracted to the Town of Maggie Valley because of its natural beauty often require the removal of trees and other plant material, thereby contributing to the depletion of a valuable natural resource. The Town of Maggie Valley is designated as a bird sanctuary. Therefore, it is necessary to protect, preserve, and restore this valuable asset.
The erosion from subdivisions built along the mountain side creates erosion problems for the valley floor and eventually settling into the creeks and streams. The sediment in Jonathan Creek and Campbell Creek is now being monitored. There could be fines imposed.
More construction increases the impervious surfaces in roofs, driveways, and roads; thus creating a problem with surface water run off; thereby increasing erosion and sediment problems. The tree canopy protects and stabilizes the land. By increasing the lot sizes, fewer trees will be needed to be removed to locate the home. Larger lots would also encourage better road design. By not having cluster development the views are improved as well.
A part of the Campbell Creek area is in the critical watershed area. According to the part of the critical area in which the land lays the impervious area is 12% or 24%.
The planning board has talked with builders, developers, and real estate agencies regarding this matter.
The Haywood County Planning Board has looked at affordable housing for over a year. It has been determined that in some areas such as Maggie Valley affordable housing is not an option. The cost of building materials has increased substantially.
The planning board had several pictures of subdivisions built to Residential 3 standards and drawings showing the end result. Residential 3 allows for 7,000 square feet. Corner lots especially have a difficult time meeting setbacks because of road right-of-ways, decks, overhangs, etc.
Ms. Joann Lyons, a member of the planning board addressed council stating that one of her concerns was the surface water run off. Larger lots sizes will minimize the grading. The Town of Maggie Valley is under state guidelines for erosion control which means one acre or more of disturbed land. You could possibly have several lots being graded on a hill side at the same time with all lots being less than one acre.
Ms. Lyons also showed a diagram of homes being built on a slope and how far into the bank must be graded.
Council took a brief recess from 6:32 until 6:40 p.m.
Ms. Agnes Moody addressed council with concerns about a lot she owns and hopes to sell or build a home. After questioning Ms. Moody her lot would be considered Residential 2. Any amendments would affect new lots not existing lots.
Mr. Kyle Edwards addressed council opposing the lot size increase. Mr. Edwards opposes the town wanting or regulate to such a degree. Mr. Edwards felt increasing the lot sizes would eliminate local people’s right to sell as much or as little of their property as they want.
Mr. Edwards went on to address lighting. “We need more lights; it looks like we are dead. Let people light the town up. Go ahead and vote on Dan’s [Massey] request.” Mr. Edwards thanked the Maggie Valley Police Department for helping with the folkmoot and then added “I’m against your room tax too.”
Mr. Jim Blythe stated that after the board meeting when the motion was passed to conduct a public hearing two aldermen rescinded their motion to set the date for the public hearing. Mr. Blythe asked that the board follow Roberts’ Rules of Order that council previously adopted.
“I would have been filing a protest if I had known the public hearing was to be held tonight.”
Manager Buffkin responded that Jim and Phil both called him but a motion to rescind a motion must be done during an opening public meeting.
Mr. Blythe disagrees, stating that if you are on the affirmative side of the vote you have twenty –four hours to rescind the motion. Mr. Blythe contends that the public hearing is invalid.
Robert’s Rules of Order do not supersede State Statues.
To Reconsider: The council may vote to reconsider its action on a matter. The motion to do so must be made by a member who voted with the prevailing side (the majority side except in the case of a tie; in that case the “nos” prevail) and at the meeting during which the original vote was taken, including any continuation of that meeting through recess [or adjournment] to a time and place certain. The motion cannot interrupt deliberation on a pending matter, but is in order at any time before final adjournment of the meeting.
According to RONR, the motion may be made at the same meeting as the vote being reconsidered or on the next legal day and may interrupt deliberation on another matter. To avoid placing a measure in limbo, these rules restrict the availability of the motion to the same meeting as the original vote, including any continuation of that meeting if it is recessed or adjourned to a time and place. If a member wishes to reverse an action taken at a previous meeting, he or she may generally make a new motion having the opposite effect of the prior action. Note that in some cases reversal may not be possible; for example, where rights have vested because of the original vote, or where a binding contract has already been signed in reliance on that decision. The motion to reconsider is permitted under these rules only when action on a pending matter concludes.
If the two aldermen had withdrawn their motion, the motion would have carried by majority three to two.
Mr. Blythe informed council that “they” are not in favor of this [increased lot sizes]. The planning commission does not have the right to say that it does not affect the cost. The increase would be approximately $12,500. The developers have no choice but to pass the cost onto the buyer.
“Erosion control is not an issue on flat ground.” If the planning commission is so concerned about erosion control Mr. Blythe felt the town should adopt a policy similar to Haywood County. If more than ½ acre of land is disturbed then an erosion control plan must be in place.
“We sold over 28 lots in the last year in one subdivision alone.” Mr. Blythe reminded council that for every new home built approximately $800 is giving in taxes to the town. “Residential 3 zoning district is a standard across the country.” Mr. Blythe asked that the planning commission not stand in judgment of what the home buyer wants. Taking away options of high density would be a deterrent.
Mr. Blythe informed council that Mr. Bob Ruhlman; owner of Heart of the Valley asked that Mr. Blythe express his dissatisfaction about the proposed amendment.
The zoning ordinance currently allows six homes to an acre; under the proposed amendment that would be four homes to the acre.
Mr. Blythe went on to explain that there are homes built on small lots twenty-five years ago that have septic. Those septic systems are beginning to fail. “We need sewer in these locations that are setting like a time bomb.” “People are coming in here on fixed incomes.” As previously stated the cost of the extra land to meet the new guidelines would be passed on to the buyer. “Let’s not kill the golden goose.”
Mayor Pinter asked Mr. Blythe opinion on mud slides and the relevance of having small lots.
Mr. Blythe reminded council that where the major mud slide was located there are fairly large lots. In Mr. Blythe’s opinion it has to do with the lay of the land, the road design, and although still under investigation, other elements could be involved. Maggie Valley is blessed with a lot of rock that helps to stabilize the land. “Maggie Valley has no jurisdiction over the mountain slopes anyway.”
Alderman DeMeola asked Mr. Blythe if this presentation is the norm or the exception.
Mr. Blythe grew up in Seattle on a lot that was 60’ by 120’. “All over America we have lots 7,000 square feet or less. Why would we be any different? Land cost is a huge issue everywhere.”
Alderman DeMeola questioned Mr. Blythe on the safety issue of the presentation.
Mr. Blythe responded that you must always consider public safety. Access for emergency vehicles is a huge issue. “Your ordinance calls for 18 foot roads which is two foot wider than the county requires. The road standards are substantially better than what the county requires. The county guidelines mirror the state guidelines.” There are some problems in the older subdivisions such as around the Country Club. Mr. Blythe felt the switchbacks were graded to tight. “I am up at the top of Rich Cove Road. That is the steepest road in the state of North Carolina. I live there all year.” The house must be sighted properly on the lot. This is building department issue not the planning commission. The building inspector has the authority to ask for engineering for sites that he is unsure about.
Regarding the unsightly issue, Mr. Blythe suggested the town purchase the land to maintain the mountain beauty. “If not [purchase the land] you are taking the property from the landowners.”
Alderman DeMeola then questioned Mr. Blyth about the critical watershed areas.
The watershed areas are already taken care of through the county guidelines. “There are lots of safeguards in place.” The 12% impervious surface requirement dictates the lot size. Same regulations apply to WS II where the impervious surface can not be over 24%. State law requires a septic repair area equal to the existing requirement for a septic system. Mr. Blythe felt that if the town is uneasy about erosion control, the town should adopt the guidelines for ½ acre of disturbed land. “Notify the state and take over that authority.”
The Planning Board had previously discussed the issue. Chairman Tilley stated that additional schooling would be required and a code enforcement officer would have to be in place.
Alderman Taylor felt that the board is dealing with two situations that make her uncomfortable. Alderman Higel and Aldridge have asked council not to act on this issue.
Because of the confusion with Alderman Higel and Aldridge rescinding their motion and Mr. Blythe stating that he did not have proper notice to file a protest petition “there is little choice but to table the matter”. Alderman Taylor reminded council of the strategic plan and the implications thereof.
Alderman Taylor acknowledged that one of the fastest subdivisions to sell out completely was “The Cliffs” off Fie Top Road prior to the Campbell Creek area. Alderman Taylor stated that it was her understanding that “The Cliffs” was considered a planned unit development. Someone could still do a planned unit development if desired. It is desirable for some, especially the elderly, to not want to maintain a yard.
Manager Buffkin responded that the underlying density still holds because of the required open spaces. “Over all density of the project is the same.”
Alderman Taylor gave an example of Valley Creek Run, where the lots are small, with one driveway and two cars, then company parks in the roadway. Another example is Stoney Ridge Subdivision. “One may not be crazy about how it looks from the road, but people that live there love it. Council should look at common parking areas.”
Alderman DeMeola stressed that this would mean more work for an already overworked planning board.
Alderman DeMeola asked for more information in order to become more knowledgeable about the safety concerns as well as having a full board present before making a decision.
Chairman Tilley stated that it is a combination of issues. Mr. Lee Starnes called Region 4 FEMA to come to Haywood County to meet with the insurance agencies to discuss this issue. Chairman Tilley stated that the issue can be tabled until after Raleigh has approved the Hazard Mitigation plan.
Chief Sutton touched on the Hazard Mitigation Plan and the possibility of loosing disaster funding if a plan is not in place. When the plan is returned from Raleigh, the planning board will make a recommendation to town council. The data regarding affordable housing can be obtained from the county.
Alderman DeMeola questioned Mr. Blythe on the numbers he previously presented for setbacks and rights-of-way.
The county requires 16 feet roads while the city requires 18 feet with three foot shoulders. Grade is calculated by every foot out from a slope you go one foot up. Smokey Mountain Subdivision has lots that are large but the house pads are small because the slope is steep. “We have the potential to do another subdivision with 80 to 90 lots. If the R3 lot size is increased that would cut that number by one third. You are talking about people moving here and paying taxes to the town. We have demonstrated that there is a need for these size lots. I feel the planning commission is focused on esthetics. If you want the green foliage then you need to figure out a way of buying the property. If not, you don’t own the property.”
Chairman Tilley stated that a home was built in Valley Creek Run where all of the trees were removed from the lot.
Mr. Blythe reminded council that Crockett’s Meadows was built on pasture land where there were no trees.
Chairman Tilley added that there are residents that are getting surface water run off and sediment from subdivisions located above. “The valley floor takes the blunt of what takes place above.”
Mr. Massey spoke from the floor stating that if beauty is a concern then have homeowners replace trees that are removed.
Ms. Lyons felt that with a 7,000 square foot lot there is little room to replace trees especially if parking comes into play. Land is selling from $7,500 to $12,000 per acre. Ms. Lyons added that she works for developers and has completed three subdivisions within the town limits and will begin work on another one shortly. Ms. Lyons is in favor of increasing the lot sizes. Any developer could double their money. The costs of improvements generally run close to the cost of the land. Sewer runs approximately $30 to $35 per foot. “I don’t know why the cost has to be passed on to the consumer.” Six lots per acre would net approximately $180,000. “I want to see the beauty of the land preserved, keep our creeks clean, and protect our water source. By the time roads are constructed 20% of the lot is taken. When meeting the town standards you have a 24-foot road bed going through the mountains. It cost money to make money.” Ms. Lyons’ felt by her experience that developers will develop to the minimum requirements. Ms. Lyons’ went on to commend Mr. Blythe on Crockett’s Meadows.
The Planning Board asked that it be put on record that they have made the request to increase lot sizes.
Mr. Blythe responded that he just sold an acre of land for $50,000. The developer’s goal has to be to double the cost of the land and the infrastructure. “The housing economy is huge compared to tourism dollars. The developers are the golden goose, not the tourist. The developers try to keep the cost down and work hard for the money. All you are going to do is push the buyer to Murphy.”
Mayor Pinter asked what could be done to protect the mountains.
Mr. Blythe responded that in Washington State the planning commission has imposed undue hardships on developers. The planning commission is using this as a tool to keep people from building along the shoreline. In Washington State, the courts determined that if you find that the parcel is of such significance, that the town purchases the property. “Ghost Town is a prime example. There is 250 acres. If you do not want any development up there then let’s raise the money through tax increases to buy the land. Then put it in nature conservancy.” Mr. Blythe went on to describe the Balsam Preserves where there is a 100% tax break. “There are a lot of programs if you think progressively.” Mr. Blythe explained the negations his company is currently involved with in the Campbell Creek watershed area. “We will be paid fair market value but the money will come from the federal government.” The developer will sell his developing rights but will continue to have hunting and fishing rights.
Alderman DeMeola asked for Jerry Zerbock’s input into the situation because of his engineering background.
Mr. Zerbock informed council that Dr. Cooper’s strategic plan does not address lot sizes.
Mr. Zerbock agreed with Mr. Blythe about looking for inventive ways of protecting the mountains. “Maggie does not have jurisdiction over the mountains. This has opened up some excellent discussions and some wonderful ideas.”
Mayor Pinter stated that she was not ready to make a decision. “It is very complex.”
Alderman DeMeola and Taylor commended the planning board for their presentation as well as Mr. Blythe’s valuable input.
ALDERMAN TAYLOR MADE A MOTION TO TABLE THE ISSUE UNTIL A FULL BOARD IS PRESENT ADDING HER REGRETS THAT THE OTHER BOARD MEMBERS MISSED SUCH A WONDERFUL PRESENTATION.
ALDERMAN DEMEOLA SECONDED THE MOTION BEGRUDGINGLY BECAUSE OF THE ENTIRE BOARD NOT BEING PRESENT ADDING THAT IT BE THE FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS AT THE NEXT MEETING.
Planning Board Vacancy
Mr. Torry Pinter resigned his position from the planning board due to other obligations. Chairman Tilley stated that the planning board recommends Billy Brede and Billy Case be appointed to fill Mr. DeMeola and Mr. Pinter’s position.
ALDERMAN TAYLOR MADE A MOTION TO ACCEPT MR. PINTER’S RESIGNATION EFFECTIVE TODAY AND APPOINT MR. BREDE AND MR. CASE.
Ms. Linda Massey previously submitted an application for appointment and was never interviewed. Chairman Tilley explained that the gentlemen had already been interviewed before her application was received.
Alderman Taylor stated that Ms. Massey had turned in an application along with the survey that was mailed to the citizens.
Chairman Tilley stated that there are only two slots available.
Alderman Taylor reminded council that Mr. DeMeola was the last interviewee for the vacant aldermen position and if he had not been interviewed the board would have had a hard time getting a consensus.
Alderman DeMeola agreed adding that it is a democratic process.
Ms. Massey is willing to serve in any capacity adding that she would like to be considered at another time because she did not want to hold up the process. The reason Ms. Massey felt she could help was because of her landscaping experience in Florida and her experience as a business owner. “If there is an opening in the future please consider me.”
Considering Ms. Massey’s comments:
ALDERMAN DEMEOLA SECONDED THE MOTION.
ALDERMAN TAYLOR MADE A MOTION TO ADJOURN AT 7:55 P.M.
ALDERMAN DEMEOLA SECONDED THE MOTION.
Jo Pinter, Mayor
Vickie Best, CMC