Gates County CAMA
By: Rob Cross
Gates County, NC —
I have good news and bad news for Gates County. First, for Readers, there is a copy of the CAMA Core Land Use Plan Update 2003 – 2004, available to read in Adobe PDF format in this published article on www.gatescountyusa.com.
To begin, the bad news in Gates County is the CAMA Core Land Use Citizens Participation Plan (CPP) is still missing. The good news is I have been given a draft copy of the Citizens Participation Plan! Also, I have a copy of the Gates County Planning Board Minutes, March, 25, 2003. This is very interesting, finally evidence of the existence of the Citizen Participation Plan. Now more bad news, the draft Vision Statement was developed from the input of six people, planning board members, questionnaires completed, and e-mails. That was it? This is how they analyzed a true cross-section of the communityâ€™s socioeconomic segments? One public meeting, and a draft summary of two chapters and the vision statement were formed. That is amazing, we need these people in the U.N. writing peace treaties! Within a one month time frame these people discovered and drafted the future concerns and aspirations of an entire community of approximately 10,500 people? But, we are not done yet. The countyâ€™s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis is noted in the Planning Board Minutes. Notably, under weaknesses; (Most) income goes out of County, lack of stores, lack of local jobs, increased crime rate, low tax base, no industry, low cost of living (Thatâ€™s a weakness?), lack of progress in Gates County due to not having an intelligent plan in place to try and preserve the quality of life in the community, road deterioration (caused by traffic, storms, heavy equipment, etc).
That sure doesnâ€™t sound like the concerns found in the Gates County CAMA Core Land Use Plan, nor the County Vision Statement?
Now, I would like to digress one month earlier to the Gates County Board of Commissioners Regular Meeting, February 3, 2003 Minutes,
“A copy of the proposed Citizen Participation Plan for the CAMA Land Use Plan was presented for the Boardâ€™s review and action. Upon motion of Commissioner Rountree, seconded by Commissioner Langston, the Board voted unanimously to approve the CAMA Land Use Plan as compiled by Bill Turner.”
Therefore, we can all agree the Gates County Board of Commissioners reviewed and approved the Citizen Participation Plan. Next, letâ€™s take a look at the draft copy of the Gates County CAMA Core Land Use Citizens Participation Plan. The introduction repeats most of the introduction in Chapter 1 of the Gates County CAMA Core Land Use Plan. But, in the 7th section the draft CPP states,
“The Gates County Planning Department staff and /or members of the Planning Board will make regular progress reports to the Board of Commissioners.”
Unfortunately, there is no evidence in the Gates County Board of Commissioners Regular Meeting Minutes from February 3, 2003 until January 5, 2004 of ever discussing the CAMA Core Land Use Plan as defined in the CPP. The Minutes for May 3, 2004, state,
“Mr. Turner advised the Board that the Land Use Plan comments due at the end of April were not available yet. He advised the Board that John Thayer had left the agency and was unsure when the comments will be available for the final draft.”
Furthermore, there are more than several addresses to the Board by the County Planner, and none included the progress of the CAMA Land Use Plan. To conclude, there was no mention again of the CAMA Core Land Use Plan until May 2, 2005 Regular Meeting Minutes,
“Mrs. White advised the Commissioners that it was time to set Public Hearing to review the CAMA Land Use Plan. June was designated as the time for comments and July 11 was the date set for the Public Hearing.”
The 8th section of the draft CPP, my favorite part, addresses, “Continuous Public Education” with the address below,
“Keeping the citizens of Gates County aware of issues and needs should be a continuous process. If citizens are to participate in the formulation of goals and policies, they must first have a basic understanding of the major issues facing the County, problem areas and opportunities, and the mechanics of the CAMA land use planning process. To expect that citizens be made aware of all of these matters solely during the land use plan update process is unrealistic. An on-going public education program could benefit not only the land use plan update preparation but also the Countyâ€™s overall planning program. An informed citizenry will result in a meaningful citizen participation and input, and therefore may provide significant guidance for elected officials.
An on-going public education program requires staff time and expenditures. Preparation time for meetings, interviews, presentations, and the cost of producing brochures and reports will result in additional financial burden. The cost of such an educational program must, however, be weighed against the cost of public distrust and suspicion that occurs when citizens are not sufficiently informed. The positive aspects of land use planning should be stressed to counter negativism that often results from the controversial nature of many planning matters such as development plans. Public awareness of the efforts of the County to develop plans and goals and to implement strategies that produce both short-term and long-term benefits should be an inherent part of the public education program.
Activities in public education program may include:
Media press releases which promote, educate, and inform;
Use of local public access cable television if available and internet-based forums to distribute current planning information;
presentations to civic, community, and special interest groups;
informal meetings with affected parties (developers, adjoining property owners, neighborhood advocates, etc.) prior to considering development proposals;
presentations to school groups;
community forums on specific planning issues; and
preparation of an annual report which highlights planning and land development issues.”
Small wonder we cannot find the Citizen Participation Plan! Mr. Turner is absolutely correct, “The cost of such an educational program must, however, be weighed against the cost of public distrust and suspicion that occurs when citizens are not sufficiently informed.” Our Board of Commissioners chose not to produce an ongoing public education program. As a matter of fact, they chose exactly the opposite. In the Regular Board Meeting Minutes, April 4, 2005, Mr. Ray Felton, a well-respected member of the community, read a letter regarding development stressing the need for a better infrastructure. In closing Mr. Felton stated,
“We look to you, our county leaders, to change the course we have followed to this point before our children and our county loses even more.”
There is no mention of the Board recommending Mr. Felton or anyone with similar concerns to join the CPP. Even on July 11, 2005, the day of the Public Hearing for adoption of the CAMA Land Use Plan, Mr. John Willy, a regular attendee, expressed no knowledge of the plan,
“Chairman Pierce opened the Public Hearing for the Land Use Plan and Mr. John Willey indicated that he had no knowledge to ask questions. Mr. Turner indicated that copies of the Plan had been available for public inspection. Commissioner Harrell asked if there would be new maps and charts to be included in the Plan. There being no further comments, Commissioner Piece closed the Public Hearing and it was recommended that the Board adopt the Resolution of Gates County, North Carolina, Adopting the Countyâ€™s CAMA Core Land Use Plan and upon motion of Commissioner William H. Harrell, seconded by Commissioner L. Frank Rountree, the Resolution was unanimously adopted. A copy of this resolution is on file in the County Managerâ€™s Office.”
I would like to note, Mr. John Willey is alive and well, and remembers quite clearly making the statement above. Also, Mr. Willey is in his eighties and is old enough to be Mr. Turnerâ€™s father. Why didnâ€™t Mr. Turner take the opportunity to educate Mr. Willey on the CAMA Land Use Plan or the CPP? Why did Commissioner Harrell change the subject? Furthermore, the copy of the CAMA Land Use Plan that was available for public scrutiny in the County Managerâ€™s Office the month prior to the hearing has no written public comments. The copy can still be viewed at the County Managerâ€™s Office with the empty public commentâ€™s page. Throughout the twenty-five months of the CAMA Land Use Plan development there is never a recommendation from the Gates County Board of Commissioners in the regular meeting minutes to join the Gates County CPP. Yet, there are numerous, references, discussion, and questions concerning zoning for the County.
From the excerpts of the Countyâ€™s Commissioners and Planning Boards Minutes to the existence of the draft CPP, it is evident that Community Collaborative Planning Incorporated honored their end of the contract by developing and writing the CAMA Core Land Use Plan and Citizens Participation Plan. Also, it is evident from the near beginning of the CAMA Land Use Plan project that the Gates County Board of Commissioners and Gates County Planning Board had no intention of implementing the CAMA Land Use Citizens Participation Plan. This is obvious from the failure to alert the community of the need to participate in the development of the land use plan. The failure of the County Planner to report the land use plan progress to the Board of Commissioners; the failure of the Board of Commissioners to demand the land plan progress report, is further evidence of concealment of the CPP. Finally, the example of Mr. Willey having no knowledge of the CAMA Land Use Plan on the day of its public hearing clearly demonstrates the Boardâ€™s lack of concern for whether the community participated or not.
In conclusion, Freedom is a gift bestowed on us from generation to generation, If we as a people fail to protect that freedom within America as well as abroad. We eventually will not be able to bestow freedom onto the next generation. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is clear on matters of land use:
Amendment 14 Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Websterâ€™s definition of Liberty
1: the quality or state of being free: a : the power to do as one pleases b : freedom from physical restraint c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges e : the power of choice
Websterâ€™s definition of Property
2 a : something owned or possessed; specifically : a piece of real estate
Therefore, failing to protect that freedom when threatened, eventually, leaves you with none.