Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Opinion

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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: The long way to the right answer

For a week of summer doldrums — if doldrums and monsoon can co-habitat July — our local government honorables  treated the audience to a fascinating performance.


Hendersonville City Council members pretended that they were shocked — shocked! — to learn that the city water policy that they had discussed and adopted would charge a commercial property owner a fee of $190,000 to open a new carwash.
The county's Regulation Review Committee finally stopped spinning its wheels — anyone out there? ... hey, we're over here... please tell us how bad our development rules are ... hello? hello? hello? — and decided to recommend a handful of minor changes to the county code book that the Board of Commissioners apparently believes had caused the housing recession and worldwide financial collapse.
And the Henderson County ABC Board, having been told unanimously by a high-ranking state ABC official, the Hendersonville ABC board, the Laurel Park ABC board and the Fletcher ABC board (not to mention the Hendersonville Lightning editorial board) that a new ABC store was unneeded and would put at least one ABC system out of business, agreed that the fifth time was the charm. The board spent $9,000 on a study that said — the envelope please — a new ABC store is not needed and if the county insisted on building one it would likely put Fletcher or Laurel Park out of business.
About the only positive thing that can be said about all three instances is that in the end the process worked. We can debate whether the process was needed at all when it comes to Henderson County's two snipe hunts. But at least the Reg Review board decided to quit wasting their own time and the county taxpayers' money chasing mythical codebook impediments to new housing starts and discount stores. (The most-cited example of an anti-business action was the unanimous vote by the Board of Commissioners to kill a Dollar General store in Horse Shoe.)
ABC board members decided last week to look into the process for shutting down, or suspending their work until the market changes, recognizing that they've got better things to do than spend the next 18 months investing $1 million in tax money on an enterprise that's bound to lose money. Give chairman Beau Waddell credit. The Triangle Stop executive knows the difference between a good retail investment and a bad one.
The City Council — facing the prospect that the politically connected Hendersonville businessman Jeff Miller would run for mayor on a platform that included more reasonable commercial water hookup charges — ordered the city staff to come back with a new impact fee structure.
It was a week with more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie mystery.
The City Council claimed that it had no anti-growth policy and learned that it did. The county commissioners thought they had an anti-growth codebook and turned out not to. And the ABC board finally arrived at the pro-taxpayer decision, which was to do nothing. Jefferson never promised representative government would be pretty.