PREVIEW OF COUNTY COMMISSION AGENDA
DECEMBER 17, 2007, 7:00 P.M.
ROBERT E. HIBBITTS MEETING ROOM
1924 COURTHOUSE, NEWTON, N.C.
The Catawba County Board of Commissioners will hold public hearings on 1) a proposed Catawba County Comprehensive Parks Master Plan and 2) a request to rezone three parcels totaling 6.67 acres, located at 6738 Highway 150 East, 6706 Highway 150 East and 6790 Emerald Isle Drive, from R-30 Residential and O-I Office-Institutional to PD Planned Development; and receive the County’s Fiscal Year 2006-07 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and an update on a Regional EcoComplex and Resource Recovery Facility currently being developed, including a request that the Board consider awarding a bid for preliminary design of a wastewater sludge management facility proposed for the EcoComplex, when the Board meets at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 17, 2007, in the Robert E. Hibbitts Meeting Room of the 1924 Courthouse at 30 North College Avenue in Newton.
The Board will also present commendations to eleven Catawba County young people for outstanding achievement in the 4-H program on the state, regional and national level, and consider the reallocation of Juvenile Crime Prevention funds from an outside agency that no longer offers substance abuse counseling for adolescents to Family NET; the adoption of a Confidential Intermediary Program for Adult Adoptees to be administered by the Department of Social Services; a tax refund request; and a resolution opposing further tightening of ozone standards by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Board will issue commendations to Catawba County 4-H members to recognize their accomplishments as 4-H contest winners and 4-H National Congress delegates. Ethan Hefner, Leah Sigmon, Anna Sigmon, Leah Phillips, Adam Coto, Leann Barger, Lisa Baxter, Tom Devine, Julia Elmore, Morgan Watts and Madison Malson will be honored for their outstanding efforts in various livestock, poultry and horse related contests on the state, regional and national level and, for Lisa Baxter, Ethan Hefner and Madison Malson, representation of the county at this year’s 4-H National Congress.
A. The Board will hold a public hearing on a request of Mr. James R. Davidson and Mr. Jim Surane to rezone three parcels totaling 6.67 acres, located at 6738 Highway 150 East, 6706 Highway 150 East and 6790 Emerald Isle Drive in the Sherrills Ford Small Area Planning District, from R-30 Residential and O-I Office-Institutional to PD Planned Development. Lake Norman is located to the north of these parcels; parcels to the south and east are zoned HC Highway Commercial and are either unoccupied, occupied by a business, or zoned R-30 Residential and occupied with single family residences; while parcels to the west are zoned R-30 and occupied by single family residences or vacant and cannot be built upon.
The PD Planned Development district is established to encourage the master planning of large scale, multiple and/or mixed use development patterns. Applicants who propose a planned development have more flexibility and creativity in design than is possible under conventional zoning regulations. The planned development process allows for the layout of uses and open space that promotes high standards in design and construction that further the purposes of a small area plan. It encourages well-planned, efficient development to promote economical and efficient land uses; allows a planned and coordinated mix of land uses that are compatible and are harmonious, but were previously discouraged by conventional zoning procedures; encourages development of contiguous large lot parcels into an integrated and orderly pattern, with particular attention to developing an efficient and coordinated network of internal streets; promotes clustering of structures and other uses to preserve unique and natural features such as woodlands, wetlands, natural drainage systems and scenic areas and reserves adequate public right-of-way in development areas for extension of arterial and collector streets, including proper width and spacing of such streets.
The combined total of the three tracts proposed for rezoning is 6.67 acres. If the rezoning is approved, the applicants would combine the three tracts to create one parcel. Lake Norman Motor Coach Resort is being developed on a portion of the property where Shady Rest Campground existed. Because Shady Rest Campground was a legal nonconforming use, the current redevelopment of the resort is allowed as long as there is no increase in the original number of recreational vehicle spaces (58 spaces). The rezoning of the property to PD Planned Development would alleviate this nonconformity and include the following through a master plan process: a caretaker’s cottage and park retail space; a bathhouse; a playground and pet park; a swimming pool; an administrative office/gate house and additional parking; and a proposed gazebo. The site plan also shows an area for 25 future motor coach sites and parking expansion, depending on municipal sewer availability. Future development or amendments to the site plan would have to be resubmitted to the County.
Public water is available and located along Highway 150 East, but public sewer is unavailable. A connection to public water has been established. A permit for a septic system for the original 58 recreational vehicle spaces has been approved. The site plan indicates the proposed development will only have one access point, as opposed to the previous campground which had multiple points of access.
The Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan serves as the current land use plan for this area. The subject properties are inside an office institutional/mixed residential corridor, envisioned by the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan to provide both a variety of residential uses and smaller scale commercial uses conducive to neighborhoods. Staff recommended approval of the rezoning request based on the Sherrills Ford Small Area Plan’s recognizing the parcels as being in a future mixed-use corridor, the purpose of the PD Planned Development, which is established to encourage the master planning of larger scale developments, and the close proximity of existing HC Highway Commercial parcels.
The Planning Board conducted a public hearing on this request on November 26, 2007. The applicants were available to answer questions. No one spoke in opposition to the rezoning request. The Planning Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of this rezoning, based the conditions cited above.
B. The Board will hold a public hearing to consider adoption of a Catawba County Comprehensive Parks Master Plan. County staff identified a need for a master plan in order to guide the County in future development of its parks system and programs. An adopted plan would also place the County in a more competitive position for obtaining grants. In 2005, the Board of Commissioners appointed a Parks Focus Group, comprised of a cross-section of citizens from different backgrounds and geographic areas of the county. The role of the Focus Group was to assist staff and a consultant in developing a set of recommendations and priorities for the Parks Division.
Catawba County contracted with McGill and Associates to work with staff and the Focus Group to prepare a Parks Master Plan which evaluates the County’s existing park facilities and services, identifies the need for additional park facilities and enhanced services, serves as a blueprint for implementing recommendations designed to meet the needs of a growing community over approximately the next ten years, allows the County to be competitive for future grant applications such as from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, and enhances quality of life for County residents.
The Plan is the result of over two years of work by the Parks Master Plan Focus Group, using public input received from a community survey which was completed in September 2005, public meetings held on August 25, 2005 and August 30, 2005, input regarding connectivity from neighboring community’s planners and park directors, input from the Catawba County Historical Association, information relating to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission relicensing of Duke Energy’s license to operate a hydroelectric power system on the Catawba River chain; and a development agreement regarding the Crescent/Key Harbor development.
Key highlights of the plan include the appointment of a Parks Advisory Committee which would discuss and make recommendations on planning, plan updates, implementation, grants, user needs and other issues involving the parks; additional staffing and increased hours of operation from 4 days to 6 days for certain parks; capital improvements totaling approximately $5,841,500 over the next 10 years; and the development of a 600 acre park in the Sherrills Ford area.
A copy of the Catawba County Comprehensive Parks Master Plan is available at www.catawbacountync.gov.
The Catawba County Parks Master Plan Focus Group conducted a public meeting on October 25, 2007 to discuss a draft of the plan. The Focus Group voted unanimously on November 8, 2007 to recommend the Plan to the Catawba County Planning Board.
The Planning Board conducted a public hearing on the Parks Master Plan on November 26, 2007. The Planning Board voted unanimously to recommended the plan to the Board of Commissioners, with the following additions: (1) consider the installation of 2 to 3-acre ponds and lakes within parks as part of a rainwater recovery system to help decrease dependence on using water from wells and treated water sources; and (2) formation of a Parks Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from each of the small areas of the county and County staff.
A. The Board will consider the reallocation of Juvenile Crime Prevention Council funds in the amount of $14,725 from The Cognitive Connection to Family NET. The Cognitive Connection terminated its contract for substance abuse services for adolescents, effective November 1, 2007. Family NET will use a licensed substance abuse counselor to provide substance abuse assessment and counseling for youth, ages 7 to 17, who are at risk or already involved with substance abuse (alcohol and drugs).
B. The Board will consider approving a Confidential Intermediary Program for Adult Adoptees, to be administered by the Department of Social Services, and associated fees for the program. North Carolina House Bill 445 created a Confidential Intermediary Law, which will become effective in North Carolina on January 1, 2008. This law, which amends previous statutes, authorizes child placement agencies to act as confidential intermediaries between adult adoptees, an adult lineal descendant of a deceased adoptee, and a biological parent. The act rewrites various sections of the adoption law to allow county departments of social services and child-placing agencies licensed in North Carolina to agree to act as “confidential intermediaries” for the purposes of obtaining and sharing otherwise confidential information and/or sharing facilitating contact when there is agreement by all parties. The law allows agencies to establish fees for this service.
Those who may seek information and/or contact through a confidential intermediary include an adoptee who has reached the age of 21, any person who descends from the direct line of the adoptee, and a biological parent of an adoptee. An agency also may act as a confidential intermediary for the adoptive parents of a minor adoptee for purposes of obtaining and sharing non-identifying birth family health information. A Confidential Intermediary Agreement will be completed by both the client and the agency outlining the expected services. Proposed fees include an initial non-refundable fee of $350 for regular services, for Catawba County residents and those whose adoptions included any services from Catawba County Social Services Adoptions staff; an initial non-refundable fee of $425 for non-Catawba County residents or customers whose adoptions were not connected to services of Social Services Adoptions staff, as stated in a Confidential Intermediary Agreement; a fee of $75 per hour for additional services beyond those contained in a standard Confidential Intermediary Agreement and a waiver of fees for those with incomes below the national poverty level.
C. The Board will consider a tax refund request totaling $9457. Records have been checked and these refunds verified, so the Tax Collector recommends approval. Under North Carolina General Statute 105-381, a taxpayer who has paid his or her taxes may request a refund in writing for an amount paid through error.
The Board will receive the County’s Comprehensive Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2007 from Ms. Paula Hodges of Martin Starnes & Associates, CPAs, P.A. Ms. Hodges is expected to report that the Financial Report found that the County remains in "good financial condition".
The report indicated that Catawba County property tax revenues increased from $63,318,810 to $65,090,641, from June 30, 2006 to June 30, 2007. Property tax collection rates remain high at 97%. The County’s tax rate of 49 cents per $100 valuation for the 2006-2007 fiscal year was the 15th lowest among all 100 North Carolina counties. On the expenditure side, when purely local funding is considered, education received the highest percentage of County funding, at 52%. Catawba County appropriated $34,222,295 for operating expenditures for education, or 22% of the total budget. Human service expenditures represented the largest total operating cost of County government, 42% of total expenditures, because State and Federal funds appropriated for the County’s three human service agencies are audited and reflected in the report. Human service expenditures (for Mental Health Services, Public Health and Social Services) decreased by 1.9% from fiscal year 2005-2006. County departments collectively spent $1,808,107 less than budgeted for fiscal year 2006-2007.
The report also addresses the County’s fund balance which, compared to County operating expenditures, is an important benchmark used by State officials and bond rating agencies. The County’s total fund balance increased by $4,440,803 in fiscal year 2006-2007, which equates to 2.6% of the operating budget for the year. Two specific revenue sources saw significant increases, sales taxes and interest earned on investments, which are indicative of a growing economy. Sales tax revenues grew by $2.7 million, or 8.8%, while investment income increased by $1.2 million, accounting for the bulk of the increase in fund balance. The County's unreserved fund balance, as a percentage of general fund expenditures, was 17.2% on June 30, 2007, which is equal to approximately two months of operating expenses.
Catawba County has traditionally had a goal to keep two months’ worth of operating expenses in reserve in part because of cash flow issues, since property tax bills are sent to taxpayers in July but revenues are very slow to come in because many taxpayers wait until near the January deadline to make payments. A reserve is also kept in case of emergency circumstances, and to insure adequate funds are available to meet urgent economic development opportunities that may arise during the course of a given year.
The County’s fund balance had been below the two months’ operating expense threshold for several years since reserve funds were used to meet the loss of revenues from the State, from the now discontinued intangibles tax, and during the economic recession. The County expects the increase in fund balance from fiscal year 2005-2006 to fiscal 2006-2007 to be needed because of several unknowns and commitments over the next several years. These factors include a projected decrease in lottery sales statewide, planned school construction expenditures, and the loss of an undetermined amount of fund balance as the County will continue to support Mental Health Services when Mental Health separates from Catawba County on July 1, 2008 and becomes a separate entity under the State of North Carolina’s Mental Health Reform Plan.
B. UTILITIES AND ENGINEERING
1. The Board will receive an update on the Regional EcoComplex and Resource Recovery Facility. The EcoComplex, which is currently under development, uses the cooperative relationships of public and private partners for the benefit of the environment and the local economy. Several private industries have already co-located their operations with those of the Blackburn Landfill. Waste products from those businesses will be converted into energy to operate the landfill, partner businesses and, in the future, educational research facilities and a proposed sludge management facility. In addition to these environmental advantages, the facilities will promote economic development through creation of new jobs in the green energy, green business, and agricultural, industrial, and environmental sectors.
2. The Board will consider an agreement with Camp Dresser and McKee to perform preliminary design services (to 30% complete) for a Wastewater Sludge Management Facility, a component of the EcoComplex that would be constructed on Rocky Ford Road. This facility would replace the current Regional Sludge Management Facility, co-owned by the Cities of Hickory, Conover, and Catawba County, which make up the Regional Sludge Management Facility Consortium.
The Wastewater Sludge Management Facility will be a state-of-the-art and cost-effective facility using thermal drying technology produced by a planned Bio-Energy Steam Plant, and electricity currently produced by existing County generator facilities at the landfill. Byproducts from the sludge management facility will be reused by other entities in the EcoComplex for landfill operations, landscaping and as a base for yard waste blended compost. Some of this compost would be used by university research and greenhouse operations, while the remainder will be marketed. The facility will also be used to create methane gas to augment landfill gasses used in the production of heat and electricity. Thermal drying technology which will use exhaust heat from the existing electrical generators and the planned Bio-Energy Steam Plant will be used to dry bio-solids in the Wastewater Sludge Management Facility.
The consortium of governments operating the current Regional Sludge Management Facility is in support of relocating the facility from its present location in the Fairgrove Business Park to the EcoComplex on Rocky Ford Road. 30% of the design must be complete in order to identify the estimated plant cost. Consortium members anticipate the project cost to be approximately $30 million. The design of the Wastewater Sludge Management Facility will be based on the recommendations of a report completed by Camp Dresser and McKee. Since Camp Dresser and McKee completed the report, which includes calculations and specifications on the current facility, it is in the best interest of Catawba County and the consortium that Camp Dresser and McKee complete the first phase of the engineering design, to 30% complete. The consortium selected Camp Dresser and McKee for this design work. Funding for the proposed agreement with Camp Dresser and McKee would be in the amount of $552,000 and is available in the project budget, so no new County appropriations are needed. The Board of Commissioners’ Policy and Public Works Subcommittee recommends the approval of the agreement with Camp Dresser and McKee to perform the preliminary design services to 30 percent complete.
OTHER ITEMS OF BUSINESS
The Board will consider a resolution opposing further tightening of Federal ozone standards as proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Board strongly supports clean-air standards at a level that ensures public health and improves quality of life for all of the county’s residents and is encouraged by the progress both state and local governments and private industry have made toward improving air quality. The national average for ozone levels has decreased by 21% from 1980 to 2006; aggregate emissions of six principal pollutants are down by more than half since 1980 despite a 46% increase in population; and programs have been initiated to cut power plant emissions by more than 40%, from today’s levels, in 30 eastern jurisdictions by 2010, reduce emissions from vehicles by 77 to 95% from 2004 levels and dramatically reduce levels of mercury and virtually eliminate diesel emissions.
State and local governments and businesses have been working diligently to meet the EPA’s current National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground level ozone by the 2020 deadline, investing approximately $20 billion each year. The resolution expresses the Board’s belief that further tightening of ozone standards, even before the current standard of 0.08 parts per million is met, could result in emissions controls in additional areas, imposing significant administrative and regulatory burdens on more citizens, businesses and local governments, and almost certainly resulting in plant and business closures and loss of jobs, along with higher energy and other prices to consumers, with total additional costs estimated at $10 billion to $22 billion per year. Based on the considerations listed above and, with significant questions having been raised regarding the science behind the EPA’s proposal to tighten ozone standards and as members of the Agency’s own scientific advisory board have disputed its conclusions, the Board of Commissioners opposes the proposed tightening of the current ozone standards.
CONTACT: DAVE HARDIN, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER 465-8464