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BOLIVIA—Brunswick County commissioners tackled the issue of accessory structures Monday night during a long debate.
They eventually voted against planning board recommendations and modifying the amendment.
Commissioners took on the wording of the amendment that read “the total square footage of all accessory structures (associated with residential uses) located on the parcel must be less than the total square footage of all primary structures located on that parcel.”
Planning director Leslie Bell explained that under the current UDO, a property owner wishing to build a larger structure could divide land into additional parcels to circumvent requirements. Bell said existing ordinances have been in place, setting a pattern for 20 years.
Commissioners took issue with the ordinance, saying they felt a property owner shouldn’t be told how to spend money.
“I have concerns with the way it is worded to amend to the size of the home,” said commissioner Phil Norris. “What if they want to build a structure big enough to hold four to 10 cars? How would they do that? There are cases when we have to not only protect the rights of the neighbors but also the property owner. I have a problem with us taking away people’s property rights. I don’t care if it’s standard procedure, this is Brunswick County—it doesn’t always fit.”
“I don’t think it’s taking away property rights,” Bell said.
“But I do,” Norris said.
“What if you live out there in rural residential and you want to build a place for your antique cars? — you can’t,” chairman Bill Sue said.
“That is ridiculous,” Norris said as he slammed his fist on the desk. “We are in rural residential because we don’t have the money to go into a subdivision.”
Commissioners gave examples of someone purchasing a large fishing boat and wanting to build a structure on their property to protect the boat from the elements. Until they voted to change the ordinance, the property owner would be restricted to the size of the structure. They could end up in a situation where they weren’t permitted to build a structure large enough to protect a boat.
“I want to see Brunswick County help our citizens do what they want to do,” Norris said. “I don’t want to put the burden on our citizens.”
“I don’t think we’ve gotten to that one-stop shop in our permitting,” commissioner Scott Phillips said. “We need to do something that is usable and feasible for our citizens.”
Bell reminded the board the ordinance was voted for in 2007 when the UDO was revised. He said several current commissioners were on the board at that time.
“You learn from your mistakes,” Norris said.
“Why is it that you want to change it now?” Bell questioned.
“Because we see a flaw,” Sue said.
“It’s like we’re telling people you have to do this because we say so. This is a problem and we have to address it,” Norris said. “It’s wrong that I have to hire a surveyor and pay him $1,000 to come down and split my 3 acres into a new lot to build my structure.”
“It’s important to get a one-size-fits-all (UDO),” Bell said.
“What can you do to correct what they are talking about?” commissioner Charles Warren asked Bell.
“We are urbanizing. This is a very diverse area,” commissioner Marty Cooke added.
Norris proposed they change the text amendment to say you can’t limit the size of the accessory structure. The buildings already have to meet setbacks.
Commissioners voted unanimously to change the amendment to eliminate size restrictions.
A Brunswick County citizen who said he had experienced a similar situation when he wanted to build a shop on his property immediately thanked commissioners for their vote. He said because the shop was bigger than his house, he had to hire a surveyor and it didn’t make sense because he owned 35 acres.
Commissioners also discussed at length remediation of wetlands adjacent to the N.C. 211 water treatment plant.
The county is in a position where it may have to hire River Works Inc. at a cost of $445,287 to complete the work.
The county has been fighting the state on the matter for more than two years.
“We have spent two years fighting this through all legal means,” said Jerry Pierce, director of public utilities. “We have argued that they are healthy wetlands, but the state said we have to take it out in 2009. We fought it for two years, but now we are down to the time to get it out.”
When asked what the penalty would be for delaying the project, Pierce explained the county was already being fined.
“The state has already fined us and are waiting for us to complete the work,” he told commissioners. “If we don’t make progress, they could fine us for every day we are in the wetlands. I think we’ve exhausted all of our efforts to get the state to change its mind.”
“I want to ask the legality of running a full-page ad in The Brunswick Beacon and The State Port Pilot with the guy’s picture saying this is the pinhead costing taxpayers $400,000,” Norris said.
Communities in Schools representative Patsy Thrift shared the organization’s 2011-2012 annual report with commissioners Monday.
CIS has helped 145 elementary students in after-school programs, 101 elementary school students in summer camps and more than 2,000 students and adults have received services in the Leland office.
Additionally, 223 parents and children attended workshops and/or classes and 146 at-risk middle-schoolers have been counseled through case management. Also 163 first-time youth offenders have gone through teen or peer court saving the justice system more than $2,000 per case at an annual savings of $326,000.
CIS also provided 24 scholarships to graduating seniors.
“CIS touched many lives this past year,” Thrift said.
In other business, commissioners voted to:
•Move forward with grant applications for the CDBG 2012 talent enhancement capacity building program, the CDBG scattered site housing and catalyst program grant, and the CDBG small-business and entrepreneurial assistance grant.
•Approved CAMA land use text amendments.
•Approved a map amendment for property on Lanvale Road, Old Fayetteville Road, Dale Street and Flat Path near Leland.
•Set public hearings for Nov. 5 on unified development ordinance text amendment UDO-12-11 and proposed map amendment Z-12-688.
•Approved a contract with Southport allocating water storage capacity in the Smithville elevated water storage tank.
•Approved a contract with Hazen and Sawyer for preparation of N.C. 211 solids handling study and well location in the amount of $123,770.
•Approved using $1,465,000 of North Carolina Education Lottery money to retrofit Leland Middle School.
•Eliminated the base sewer service fee of $18 per month.
Rachel Johnson is a staff writer at The Brunswick Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.