The topics that generated the most discussion during the Board of Commissioners September 19 Critical Issues Summit were creating a capital fund for school construction and crafting a policy for economic development incentives.
But the agenda included a number of items that were dealt with more briefly.
Land Use Plan
Planning Board Chairman Robert Hayter and Planning Director Debra Ensminger Presented the approved draft of the new Moore County Land Use Plan to the Commissioners, who must approve it before it takes effect.
Hayter said the goal of the plan was optimization of land-use within the County.
"Optimum doesn't mean maximum or minimum," Hayter said. "It doesn't mean extreme . . . It refers to that unique middle place that is balanced, without being extreme. "
Optimizing land use, he said, will increase the tax base, increase the efficiency of delivering many public services, provide the best return on the County's investment in utilities, and protect the private property rights of citizens.
Hayter said the County needs to reevaluate its perspective on development, because "the wave of capital moving toward development that we had in the 1990s is not going to work in the next twenty-five years. 'Just build it and they will come' is not sound in the current environment."
He noted that a small percentage of the County's land contains more than sixty percent of its tax base, with most of that property lying within the municipalities. "If you just expand that by five percent," Hayter said, "it captures seventy percent of the tax base. We need to focus on the infill opportunities around our municipalities, and not be putting new towns out in the rural area."
It is less expensive to provide a whole range of services — police, fire, schools, water, sewer — in more densely-populated municipalities than in rural areas, he explained. "Once you have a municipal government handling things, you get better performance on the county share of the tax base," he said.
Noting that the developer of the Pine Forest PUD, which lies along NC Highway 211 between Pinewild and West End, didn't want to be inside a municipality, Chairman Nick Picerno asked Hayter whether, under the new land use plan, the Board would be discouraging that sort of development.
Hayter said a dialogue with the developer would be appropriate, adding that the land use plan "does not say'Thou shalt not approve a subdivision.' But, if you can get development in a municipality or ETJ, then you create greater efficiencies."
Commissioner Jimmy Melton, who served on the steering committee that created the County's original land use plan in the late 1990s, noted that the Pine Forest development falls within an area designated by that plan as part of the urban services boundary — the area that was projected to experience increased development.
Picerno ask the staff to schedule a public hearing on the land use plan for the October 15 meeting of the Board of Commissioners. Absent significant objections from the public, the plan could be approved at that meeting.
Unified Development Ordinance
Planning Director Ensminger provided the Commissioners with a summary of major changes made in the Unified Development Ordinance [UDO], which combines the current subdivision and zoning ordinances. Among those she highlighted were:
• Eliminating five zoning districts by consolidating them with similar districts.
• Allowing a landowner to place a manufactured home as a second dwelling unit on his or her property without going through the conditional use permit process before the planning board.
• Changing requirements for planned unit developments so that 100 percent of the acreage of a golf course is counted towards those open space requirements.
• Illuminating the requirement that new major subdivisions include the establishment of a landowners association.
Ensminger ask the commissioners to delay consideration of the UDO until January. She noted that it had been one year since the Planning Board approved the document, and that two new members had been added to the board in that time. In addition, Ensminger said, a number of changes in state legislation must be incorporated into the draft.
County Manager Wayne Vest brought the Commissioners up to date on plans to utilize the now vacant basement of the County Courthouse for offices of the Clerk of Court and Probation Department, as well as moving the District Attorney to space in the Currie Building formerly occupied by Public Safety.
Vest reported that the Veteran's Affairs office has moved into a space in the Agricultural Center once occupied by the Farm Services Agency. That will free up space in the Ayers Building, allowing the Human Resources Department to relocate from its current perch on the third floor of the Historic Courthouse.
Noting that the Commissioners had several years ago approved plans for a County Administration building that was never built, Chairman Picerno told Vest that the Board would like to see him work on the "total vision" for the future of County facilities, "Because we do have folks scattered all over Carthage."
Vest said that concern is not on the back burner but "is always in the middle part of my mind."
Information Technology Director Darlene Yudell briefed the Board on two major IT initiatives, one that is going well and one that is not.
The good news is the "virtualization" project, which gives County employees the ability to log into the county computer system -- and their individual desktop -- from any internet-connected computer.
More than sixty individual employees are currently set up to use virtualization, Yudell said, adding that she sees "early signs of this becoming a standard." Feedback from employees has been ninety-seven percent positive.
Chairman Picerno noted that virtualization will save the County money by allowing it to replace personal computers with much less expensive "thin clients."
The ERP -- enterprise resources planning -- system the county acquired four years ago from Tyler Technologies has been much more of a mixed bag, Yudell reported.
The system is supposed to allow the integration of various departments across County Adminstration, but has been far more successful for some than for others. For example, the Finance Department has been able to use the system successfully, but the Tax Department has found it unworkable.
To compound the problem, Tyler Technologies has been particularly unresponsive in addressing the problems the County has faced. Part of the problem appears to be that the Tyler system is actually a combination of programs created as independent products running on incompatible databases.
The Commissioners encourage Yudell to identify an alternative system for the Tax Office, and to allow the County Attorney's office to explore the possibility of obtaining refunds or credits from Tyler.
The commissioners ended the day with two briefings from the NC Department of Transportation. Francis Bisby brought them up to date on the Comprehensive Transportation Plan that is being developed by a steering committee of local stakeholders working with NCDOT personnel and consultants.
That effort is generating a very sophisticated model of traffic flows on major arteries within the County. Of particular concern is whether projected traffic volumes on US 1 through Southern Pines and Aberdeen can be sustained without a major overhaul or bypass of that roadway.
Division 8 Planning Engineer Darius Sturdivant briefed the Commissioners on two shorter term projects currently being conducted, one to study the Pinehurst traffic circle and the other to study the impact of driveway access on traffic flow along NC Highway 211 from Seven Lakes to Pinehurst.