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Denver resident questions process

New warehouses next to Harris-Teeter at Waterside Crossing. A new Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. A new Birkdale-style housing development.
These projects are in the works for Denver, a place that Connie Zmijewski has called home for two years.
“I’m passionate about this area,” said Zmijewski. “I’m concerned about the growth in eastern Lincoln County,”
These projects concern her greatly because she feels that right now, the sitting Lincoln County commissioners are approving everything that’s presented before them, whether the county’s planning board recommends the project or not.
“We’re not just planning for tomorrow but for future generations,” she said. “If the planning isn’t done right, then there isn’t any way to correct it.”
Many people vocalize their concerns by speaking at public hearings in front of county boards.
While Zmijewski did that at several community meetings regarding Lowe’s and Wal-Mart, she was also motivated to take action by applying to be on the county’s planning board.
“I felt there needs to be more diversity on the planning board,” she said. “I felt like I could add to the board due to my background and because there’s so much growth in the eastern part of the county. It’s like there’s a gold rush, or a rush to try and quickly develop the area.”
The first step in the process to be on the planning board was for Zmijewski to fill out an application at the county zoning office.
According to Randy Hawkins, county zoning administrator, the application asks several questions.
“Questions about a person’s background are on there as well as asking the applicants why they want to be on the planning board,” he said. “There is no official criteria for being on the board.”
That fact was backed by county commissioner James “Buddy” Funderburk, who is the overseer of the planning board.
“You have to know a little something about what’s going on in the county,” he said.
Funderburk added that when there is a position to be filled on the board, names are gathered then presented to county commissioners for a vote.
Commissioners recently filled an at-large position on the board. Zmijewski’s name was one of a handful of people the board voted on but she wasn’t appointed and now questions the process.
“I wasn’t even given any kind of response to my application,” she said. “I wouldn’t even have applied if I had known there wasn’t an interview process.”
When questioned about why Zmijewski wasn’t called or interviewed, Funderburk said that sometimes commissioners do call the applicants.
“That’s if commissioners aren’t familiar with an applicant,” he said. “It’s to get a better feel for why that particular person applied for a position.”
Funderburk added that in Zmijewski’s case, commissioners saw her application.
“Her application was viewed by every commissioner because all of the applications were in their packets of information,” he said.
That answer provides little consolation for Zmijewski.
“A planning board, any planning board, needs to develop standards for a community,” said Zmijewski. “Our county commissioners feel that we’re not worthy of really nice developments here.”
She points to the recent Lowe’s project meeting between company officials and members of the east Lincoln community.
“For Nicky Wagoner to say we don’t have the demographics to support a store like they have in Ballantyne is outrageous,” said Zmijewski.
In the meantime, Zmijewski is left to continue to attend community meetings in eastern Lincoln County and voice her concerns over the glut of development coming to the county.
“I want county commissioners to know that I’m going to apply every year to be on the planning board,” she said. “I’m not going away.”
by Jon Mayhew

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