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County gets first look at budget

 

ELIZABETH HEFFNER

Staff Writer

 

County Manager Tracy Jackson shared the proposed Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget with county commissioners at their meeting Monday night.

Lincoln County’s Board of Commissioners is expected to hold its first budget workshop on Friday at noon at the Citizens Center. According to Jackson, this year’s requested budget is $88,701,584, a 1 percent increase from last year’s budget.

After meeting with multiple county department leaders, Jackson explained, he felt it would be beneficial to add 11 new county jobs while eliminating five positions. Department heads had originally requested adding 22 new jobs for this fiscal year. The new jobs include two investigator positions for the Sheriff’s Office, two EMS paramedics, one development technician position for Planning and Inspections, two social workers and two maintenance workers for the Department of Social Services and one assistant supervisor and one adoptions rescue coordinator for Animal Services.

In his presentation, Jackson said the proposed tax rate has not changed from 58.9 cents since the 2011-2012 fiscal year, when it increased approximately two cents from the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

“Among adjoining counties, we have the third lowest tax rate,” Jackson said. “Among similar counties, we have the fourth lowest tax rate. In other words, Lincoln County enjoys a much lower property tax rate than many of our neighboring counties and other counties to which we compare.”

In the proposal, Jackson said county employees will receive a 2.5 percent raise. Lincoln County will also cover the additional cost of health insurance premiums, approximately 6.5 percent.

The Lincoln County FY 2014-2015 Budget will be available to the public by contacting the county manager’s office during regular business hours.

Applicants Robert Seitz and Pat McCaffery have received approval to construct the dog day care and boarding facility in Denver. At their May 5 hearing, county commissioners and the Lincoln County Planning Board listened to testimony from the applicants and opponents of the proposal, the majority of whom live in the nearby residential development, Villages of Denver. The residents had expressed concerns over the potential noise disturbances, a potential increase in traffic and unpleasant odors that could stem from such a facility.

The Times-News previously reported that the Planning Board had voted 6-0 to recommend commissioner approval of the kennel. The 6.15-acre parcel is located on the north side of Natalie Commons Drive, approximately 800 feet west of N.C. 16. The property is zoned in a General Industrial District.

During their discussion Monday night, county commissioner James Klein expressed his conflicting feelings regarding the request.

“This has been a difficult one for me, because both parties made a very good case, as did the Planning Department,” Klein said. “What does bother me is the required conditional use permit in an I-G District for something like a dog kennel…I would imagine that if it were an application in an R-SF or similar kind of zoning area, it would probably not be allowed. I think that standard suggests that we vote on this, whether we pass it or reject it, based on that piece of information. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t think of my question at the public hearing regarding the history of the zoning there….I, for one, can’t picture where a dog kennel fits in the overall scheme of what may wind up there.”

Klein said it was unfortunate that the developer and the neighboring restaurant owners chose not to attend the hearing.

Commissioner Carl Robinson, however, had no qualms with approving the conditional use permit request.

“I went out there and walked the property,” Robinson said. “It’s very dense woods. On the right side of the road, it’s a long way to any houses on the right side. On the left side, it’s over a thousand feet to the houses on the left side of the road. That kennel could be put in there, and you wouldn’t be able to see it, those woods are so thick, if they wanted to do that…I just don’t think the noise is going to be a problem. I really don’t.”

Chairman Alex Patton then requested that Zoning Administrator Randy Hawkins remind the board members as to what could be built on the property under the current Unified Development Ordinance.

“It is pedagogy, so most any type of manufacturing, assembly, a distribution center — I mentioned at the hearing a race car shop, a body shop or auto repair, just a number of things,” Hawkins said.

Before county commissioners voted, Commissioner Carroll Mitchem requested that the board review their previous decision on a controversial proposal in Denver earlier this year.

“Let’s go back to a little history that I did not vote on because I recused myself about a month or so ago,” Mitchem said. “The rest of the board is the ones that voted to do away or to not approve the solar farm. It had no traffic, had no noise whatsoever, but y’all voted against that. Now we have something here with no buffer or conditions put on it. So, in my opinion, if you supposedly denied that solar farm, then to stay in character with your decisions in the past, you would have to vote against this.”

Commissioners voted 3-1 to approval the dog kennel and grooming facility, with Mitchem in opposition. Due to her absence at the May 5 meeting, Commissioner Cecelia Martin recused herself from voting on all May 5 permit requests.

Commissioners unanimously approved applicant Marni Carpenter’s conditional use permit request to operate a bed and breakfast in the Residential Single-Family District. Carpenter is the owner of the proposed 9.6-acre site, located at 2800 Laboratory Road in the Lincolnton Township. At their last meeting, Planning Board members had voted 6-0 to recommend approval.

Applicant Jeff Wilkinson’s request for a parallel conditional use rezoning has been approved. County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the request to rezone the 0.454 parcel from Residential Suburban to Conditional Use General Business, which permits Wilkinson to service and sell vehicles on the property. The Planning Board had voted 6-0 to recommend approval.

Lincoln County’s Board of Commissioners will meet on Friday at noon for their first budget workshop at the Citizens Center. Their next joint meeting with the Planning Board will be held on June 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Citizens Center.

 

 

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