PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
TUESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2008, 7 P.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, NC
NOTE THE CHANGE IN THE BOARD’S USUAL MEETING SCHEDULE BECAUSE THE FIRST MONDAY IN JANUARY, JANUARY 21, 2008, IS THE DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. BIRTHDAY HOLIDAY AND COUNTY OFFICES WILL BE CLOSED.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on proposed amendments to the Mixed-Use Corridor Overlay District and the official zoning map of the County’s Unified Development Ordinance, to incorporate a regional commercial/mixed use center at the intersection of Highway 150 and 16 in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning District; and will consider the adoption of an integration plan for the merging of mental health service agencies in Burke and Catawba Counties into a multi-county Area Authority, when the Board meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 22, 2008, in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse in Newton.
The Board will also consider a request to revise three budget outcomes agreed upon for the Department of Social Services, due to unanticipated data and policy implications; the acceptance of State grant funds for the LifeSkills II Program for fiscal year 2007/08 to continue an after-school program involving at-risk sixth to eighth grade students; a request to enter into a partnership with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments to increase internet bandwidth for both the County and the Council of Governments; the awarding of a bid for a landfill grinder needed at the Blackburn Landfill; the appropriation of $180,000 from the Catawba County Parks Preservation Trust Fund; and the authorizing of an application for North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant funds, for the renovation and reactivation of St. Stephens Park; and a resolution supporting a Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant application to be used to acquire a tract known as the “Mountain Creek tract” on Lake Norman that would be used to develop a passive County park for the southeastern part of the county. The Board will also issue a Certificate of Commendation to the Catawba County Farm Bureau to recognize two recent awards.
The Board will issue a Certificate of Commendation recognizing the Catawba County Farm Bureau for outstanding achievement, as the recipient of the first-ever North Carolina Farm Bureau County of Excellence Award and for also receiving the NC Farm Bureau’s Legislative Program Award for 2007. The County of Excellence Award recognizes the Catawba County Farm Bureau’s organizational structure, leadership development and success in raising the visibility of the Farm Bureau. The Legislative Award recognizes the Catawba County Farm Bureau for its effectiveness in legislative involvement, through frequent communication with elected officials at the local, state and national levels.
The Board will hold a public hearing to consider amendments to Section 44-430, Mixed-Used Corridor Overlay (MUC-O), of the Catawba County Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) and the expansion of the MUC-O district on the County’s Official Zoning Map to incorporate a regional commercial/mixed use center at the intersection of Highway 150 and 16 in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning District. The construction of the new Highway 16 bypass in the southeast area of Catawba County is expected to increase pressure for development. This was acknowledged during the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan process, when citizens in the community identified this area as a regional commercial center to accommodate larger-scale development. In order to balance the interests of development with good design practices, the Board of Commissioners implemented a Mixed-Use Corridor Overlay district along Highway 150 when the UDO was adopted in February 2007. The MUC-O provides higher development standards which address such issues as driveway connections, building materials and types of businesses allowed.
As new development requests are being considered near the new Highway 16 interchange and along the existing Highway 16 corridor, concerns have been raised that the same design standards should apply to these areas. Flexibility should be incorporated to accommodate larger-scale development, however, so County staff proposed broadening the MUC-O district to include the area identified as the regional commercial center in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan. Staff also proposed amendments to the UDO text to allow for larger-scale development in the MUC-O with flexibility in design standards. To incorporate these changes, the text of the MUC-O and the County’s Official Zoning Map must be amended.
Proposed amendments to the MUC-O include:
• Applying the MUC-O to the Regional Commercial/Mixed-Use Center at the intersection of Highway 150 and 16, as depicted in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan.
• Clarifying the list of prohibited uses to indicate that principal uses, and not accessory uses, are listed. Many of the uses listed in Table 44-430.05-1 would be allowed as accessory to retail and other large-scale commercial development.
• Allowing for an exception to the 65,000 square foot building size, when considered as part of a rezoning to a planned development special district. This would accommodate the larger-scale development at this intersection that was contemplated by the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan.
• Incorporating existing standards in the planned development special district section to require building front facade recessions and projections for buildings exceeding 75,000 square feet.
• Allowing for an increase in the blank wall length from 20 to 40 feet for buildings of 75,000 square feet or less and to 60 feet for buildings with greater than 75,000 square feet. Additional options are offered for breaking up blank walls, including awnings, murals and framed openings, along with a reduction in the percentage of area from 30% to 20%. The existing standard was based on a typical storefront within a village center or a dense urban setting, which is not the type of development projected or anticipated within this corridor.
• Providing options for allowing the outside display and storage of sales product, subject to screening with landscaping, decorative fencing or a berm/landscaping combination, consistent with screening requirements for open storage in the UDO. An outside display under a roof overhang area would be allowed, provided walkways are unobstructed.
• Allowing an exception to foundation planting requirements, for buildings greater than 75,000 square feet, by providing large planters at the entrances of the building, as an option to a high-maintenance landscape strip planted across the front expanse of a large-scale building.
• Allowing exceptions to the number of parking spaces, light fixture height, on-premise sign and wall sign requirements for planned developments in the MUC-O to encourage design flexibility and creativity negotiated during the rezoning process.
If the proposed MUC-O text amendments are approved, the County’s Official Zoning Map will be amended to incorporate the regional commercial/mixed use center at the intersection of Highway 150 and 16 into the MUC-O district. The proposed amendments were advertised in local newspapers and six signs were posted within the corridor. Letters on the proposed amendments were sent to affected and adjoining property owners, notifying them of the public hearing. Staff received phone calls from ten property owners who had questions and one person who is opposed to the proposed changes.
The Catawba County Planning Board conducted a public hearing on the proposed amendments at its December 20, 2007 meeting. Two citizens spoke in support of the changes. No one spoke in opposition. The Planning Board voted 8-0 to recommend the proposed amendments and found the rezoning to be consistent with the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan. Their motion included an exception to the amending of the Official Zoning Map for the General Industrial-zoned properties owned by Martin-Marietta, and leased from Roger Lee, presently being used for rock quarry operations.
A. The Board will consider amending three of Social Services’ 31 budget outcomes for Fiscal Year 2007-2008. These outcomes were developed on the basis of projected data and policy which, at times, may change during the course of a year. Staff members review outcomes monthly to assess achievement and unanticipated challenges. Year to date analysis reflects the need to revise three budget outcomes based on unanticipated data and/or policy implications.
1) Staff proposes changing a current outcome to assure the continuing safety of children, from having 94% of families who have had a child maltreatment incident have no new incidents within six months to having 87% of families who have had a child maltreatment incident (meaning substantiation of an incident or an “in need of services” finding) with no new incidents within six months. During the last fiscal year and thus far in this fiscal year, this outcome fell short, as only 84% of families had no new child maltreatment incidents within six months. Although the federal expectation is a 96% rate, during the latest Child Welfare Federal Review, the average rate realized nationally was 85%. Changing this goal to 87% for Catawba County is not only challenging, but also more realistic based on all information available. Catawba County has a high rate of reporting compared to other counties. This may, in part, be the result of the community’s responsiveness and Social Services’ co-location with partners such as law enforcement and schools. It is unrealistic to assume this existing outcome could be met, so Social Services suggests a more reasonable level of attainment.
2) Staff proposes that a current outcome, that 60% to 62% of children would be adopted within two years of entering agency custody, be changed to at least 62% of children being adopted within two years of entering agency custody, excluding cases that are appealed. Catawba County already greatly exceeds the Federal benchmark of 32% and the State benchmark of 37%. There are two points in the process at which a biological parent may appeal. Staff requests the addition of the “appeal” language to help remove issues that are out of their control. Three cases currently under appeal may take up to 11-15 months to be heard, and the agency has no way to cause courts to move faster on appeals.
3) Staff proposes changing a current outcome, to help citizens become productive and avoid welfare by assisting 110 Work First participants to find employment during Fiscal Year 2007/08, to assisting 80 Work First participants to find employment during FY 2007/08. This outcome was based on information from the last fiscal year. In November 2007, the State reported that its benchmark for this statistic was 41 participants. This mirrors what Catawba County Social Services is seeing, as the average number of “able bodied adults” has decreased by 95% since the outcome was created. Since Catawba County’s current average caseload is 22, it is believed that a goal to assist 80 Work First participants will be challenging. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends the amending of these three outcomes.
B. The Board will consider accepting grant funds from the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety in the amount of $19,286.77. These funds will support the continuation of LifeSkills II, an after-school program that involves at-risk students in the sixth through eighth grades. The twelve week program offers tutoring, education and peer mentoring designed to help youth build life skills to avoid substance use and risk-taking behaviors. The program is coordinated by a full-time 4-H Associate employed through NC Cooperative Extension, with assistance from a teacher from the participating school. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends acceptance of this grant.
C. The Board will consider a partnership with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) to increase Internet bandwidth. Increased bandwidth allows for faster access to services for the public, faster access for web based applications and faster access for personnel. It opens up possibilities to provide new and more user interactive applications from the County’s web page. The WPCOG, which is connected to the County’s Wide Area Network, has a separate 3 Mb Internet connection shared with Newton, Conover and Maiden. Catawba County uses the WPCOG Internet connection to access the NC Division of Criminal Information, giving Communications Center and law enforcement personnel access to criminal information. This connection has become inadequate for their needs, and they also need more bandwidth.
This partnership would provide increased bandwidth for both the County and the WPCOG at less cost than other options. The County’s Technology budget for Fiscal Year 2007/2008 included funding for a bandwidth increase. By employing new technology and new services, the County can increase its bandwidth to 20Mb. By partnering with the WPCOG for shared bandwidth, 50 Mb will be available. The WPCOG has agreed to pay the difference between the cost of a 20Mb connection and a 50 Mb connection, which would be $1915 per month. These funds need to be appropriated to the County’s Technology Department to cover the increased cost of the 50Mb connection. The proposed agreement would be for 36 months. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of this partnership agreement.
D. The Board will consider awarding a bid for a landfill grinder to C.W. Mill Equipment of Lincolnton, NC, in the amount of $450,000. This amount includes a trade-in of a 1993 Morbark Tub Grinder that has 5300 hours of service. The new grinder will be used to grind brush, trees, furniture, wood, stumps and pallets. The County’s Blackburn Landfill receives approximately 8,000 tons of material per year that is ground into mulch. Mulch is sold to citizens and used in the landfill during wet periods to keep dumping areas open to customers. Formal bids for a grinder were received on November 28, 2007. The bid package included the alternate trade-in of the 1993 Morbark Tub Grinder and asked for a five year/6,000 hour power train warranty. Bids were received from C.W. Mill Equipment, Public Works Equipment, Morbark, Ditch Witch of the Carolinas, Vermeer Mid Atlantic and H&E Equipment. C.W. Mill Equipment was one of the two lowest bidders and the equipment met or exceeded County specifications. Public Works Equipment was the other lowest bidder, but its equipment did not meet the specification required. The Board’s Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends
the awarding of this bid to C.W. Mill Equipment in the amount of $450,000.
1. The Board will consider the appropriation of $180,000 from the County’s Parks Preservation Trust Fund and authorizing an application for a North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) Grant for the renovation and reactivation of St. Stephens Park. The nine acre St. Stephens Park was created in 1979 and developed with a $75,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant awarded to the County on behalf of the St Stephens Recreation Corporation. The park has been operated by the City of Hickory since 1980, with usage diminishing over the past few years. The City of Hickory has no interest in operating the facility any longer and closed the park in the summer of 2005. The contract for the LWCF grant requires the applicant to operate the facility in perpetuity, however.
Staff has contacted Recreation Resource Services, administrator of the LWCF grant, seeking a change of use from an active recreation facility to a passive recreation facility, similar to the parks the County currently operates. The following activities are necessary to comply with LWCF contract requirements: (1) Since estimated repairs needed to reactivate a swimming pool are in excess of $300,000, the County would fill in the existing pool, and the pool area would be converted to educational landscape and urban forestry display gardens. Educational gardens would be used throughout the site and be one of the park’s primary attractions. (2) A bath house would be converted into a small office space, restrooms and a meeting room that would be used for educational programming. (3) Existing asphalt parking would be sealed and re-striped and signage would be updated. (4) An existing picnic shelter that is in a state of disrepair would be replaced at its current location. The replacement shelter would be slightly enlarged to accommodate at least six picnic tables, with a goal to provide enough space for one classroom of students. Grills will also be installed. 5) A new gravel surfaced trail, between ¼ and ½ mile in length, would be added and designed to connect to a paved trail at nearby Clyde Campbell Elementary School through a gated entrance. Educational kiosks would be placed along the trail. (6) A new natural surface trail, between ¼ and ½ mile in length, would be added in a wooded and habitat areas of the site and along Snow Creek. Educational kiosks would be placed along the trail. (7) A new 1.5 to 2 acre dog park would be installed in an open area. The demand for the current dog park at Riverbend Park, the only dog park in the county, continues to grow and generates revenue of over $5000 dollars a year. Since the St. Stephens Park is located near a highly populated area, a dog park would likely be a highly desired and used amenity, the main attraction at the park, and convenient for a large group of users throughout the county. (8) New horseshoe pits would be installed. (9) An existing playground area would be renovated and given safety improvements. This playground and equipment is relatively new and in very good condition. While this is not an amenity that is normally at the County’s existing parks, the guidelines of the LWCF grant require that it remains. (10) A demonstration composting and recycling area could be installed at the site as part of educational programming. (11) Materials used in the renovations would be sustainable, economical, and green-friendly when possible and economical.
In an effort to reduce operational cost of this facility, staff recommends the park initially be open on a four day per week schedule using part-time park employees, with built-in flexibility which may include weekends and regular weekdays. While attendance and use statistics indicate the County’s existing parks should be operated six days a week, which has been proposed, a limited schedule will work at this site, for the short term, to gauge interest and demand. A decision on the days and hours of operation at St. Stephens Park will be made after two years of operation. An existing part-time park ranger position would be converted to full-time so staff will be able to complete all in-house elements of the St. Stephens Park renovation as scheduled, by November 1, 2008. The Parks Division budget currently has a funded, vacant full-time position that will meet this need. Once the St. Stephens project is completed, the full-time position will be required for a future six day a week schedule at Riverbend Park as recommended in the Catawba County Parks Master Plan. The St. Stephens Park is expected to reopen in November or December of 2008. The Finance and Personnel Subcommittee recommends approval of an appropriation of $180,000 from the County’s Parks Preservation Trust Fund and a resolution supporting an application for a North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant to renovate and improve St. Stephens Park.
2. The Board will consider a resolution in support of a Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) grant application, to acquire a tract known as the “Mountain Creek tract” on Lake Norman. During the Federal process of relicensing Duke Power’s hydroelectric system along the Catawba River chain, Catawba County identified a 600-acre tract of land on the Mountain Creek arm of Lake Norman, owned by Carolina Centers/Crescent Resources, which would be suitable for the County’s third passive recreation park. The Mountain Creek location would serve the growing Sherrills Ford area and the surrounding region. As part of the relicensing agreement, Duke Energy agreed to provide financial assistance up to $1.14 million to acquire the Mountain Creek tract, provided that a purchase option was executed by December 31, 2007 and the final purchase of the property occurred by August 1, 2009. The County met the first deadline through execution of a purchase option agreement on December 13, 2007.
In order to secure the remaining funding necessary to acquire the Mountain Creek tract, the County negotiated a development agreement with Crescent Resources as part of the rezoning of the Village Center at Highway 150 and Slanting Bridge Road. The development agreement requires Crescent Resources to act in good faith to secure funding through public sources, such as the CWMTF, to acquire the 600-acre Mountain Creek tract. The development agreement states that Crescent Resources is required to obtain baseline data, conduct a survey of the property and apply for a CWMTF grant. Using Crescent Resources’s background data and application information, Catawba County will be the applicant for the grant, as the CWMTF allows only local governments or non-profits to be applicants. Crescent Resources has acquired the services of the Catawba Lands Conservancy to develop a CWMTF application and County staff has been coordinating with the Conservancy on the application, which must be submitted by February 1, 2008. As part of the application for the Fund, a resolution must be adopted by the Board of Commissioners which officially acknowledges submittal of the application and states that the County will carry out the “functions and obligations” of the grant and commits itself to complete the work as indicated in the grant.
B. MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
The Board will consider approving an Integration Plan, Board By-Laws, Mission Statement, and an approach to benefits and operations functions for the merger of Burke and Catawba County mental health services into one multi-county area authority. This plan and accompanying documents were presented to the Board of Mental Health Services of Catawba County at its regular meeting on December 20, 2007 and approved for transmittal and final approval by both the Burke and Catawba County Boards of Commissioners.
This plan is the work of an Integration Committee which was comprised of equal representation from each county, including one commissioner from each (with Commissioner Lynn Lail representing Catawba County). The Integration Committee met five times with excellent attendance and participation. Its intent was to work through a list of details to move closer to creating or modifying the existing Catawba County Area Authority. Generally, the recommendations are to modify the existing governance structure to incorporate Burke County into a newly named organization called “Mental Health Partners”. This modified structure includes new by-laws reflecting those adjustments, and organizes new services and employee benefits either by outsourcing them or purchasing them, via Catawba County, for the next two years.
While all the details for the new entity are not fully in place, the Integration Committee and Board of Mental Health Services felt the outline of the structure was adequate to present to the respective Boards of Commissioners, in order to get full endorsement as details are finalized. The basic legal question of modifying the existing structure or creating a new structure was reviewed by other County Attorneys. They agreed that modification was the simpler way to proceed, as suggested by the State. The Board of Commissioners’ Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the Catawba County Board of Commissioners approve the Integration Plan, Mission Statement, approach to benefits and operations function, and the by-laws for the merger of Burke and Catawba Counties into one multi-county area authority with two changes to the by-laws which would 1) prohibit employees of Burke and Catawba Counties from serving on the Area Mental Health Board (this would not include employees of the local boards of education or other governmental entities) and 2) provide that, when conducting the evaluation of the Area Director, in addition to comments from the Burke and Catawba County Boards of Commissioners, comments from the respective County Managers will be considered, reflecting the interaction on a day-to-day basis between the Area Authority and the particular county.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 828-465-8464