LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Board uses codebook it wants to weaken
A landowner asked the Henderson County Board of Commissioners on April 1 to change the zoning of his 1.7-acre vacant tract on U.S. 64 in Horse Shoe to allow a Dollar General store.
Sounds simple enough.
Here's a vacant piece of land on a busy road, less than 200 yards west of a strip that is already zoned commercial. The county had already demanded plenty of hoops.
In another act of overregulation that impedes private landowners from using their land as they desire and prevents business interests from moving quickly to create jobs and get the economy moving, county planners compiled a 20-page report on the rezoning request. The county's Technical Review Committee voted unanimously to approve the request in January, and the Planning Board followed suit unanimously the following month.
Yet, the request ran aground.
Once it faced a roomful of neighboring property owners, commissioners blinked. They said no, at least for now, and ordered the developer to undertake a costly, time-consuming traffic study to prove that the Dollar General won't cause traffic congestion or a traffic hazard. And what did the Board of Commissioners use to shoot down the request? That very same book of onerous county rules, regulations and Mother May I's that it has now invited a board full of contractors and business people to pick apart and dismantle.
If a single county commissioner saw the irony in this schizophrenic treatment of a private landowner and their own convenient use of a weapon to block one from use of property, he did not raise his hand to say so.
Three days hence, the new Regulation Review Advisory Committee held its inaugural meeting. We hope the commissioners themselves can attend the meetings so they can hear the part when the reg-review panel goes to full-throated venting about driveway permits, traffic studies and stormwater treatment requirements — all those "picky picky" requirements commissioners themselves used to block the rezoning request the landowner brought to their table Monday night.
We've thought from the start that the reg-review committee was fraught with peril and frustration. Peril, because it might lead to efforts to undo environmental, traffic, steep slope and buffering protections that we need. Frustration, because we suspect the business owners will target lots of regulations and laws that are the province of city, state and federal agencies, and not the responsibility of county government.
As the reg-review panel goes about its work, it should be aware that zoning rules and building regulations often turn out to be useful, even to a board as pro-business and anti-government as this one purports to be. When a roomful of voters stood up to oppose the Dollar General, commissioners didn't hesitate to grab that heavy despised book of rules, and use it to jam the gears of "progress" that were grinding threateningly toward them.