New hearings to be held on county development code|[10/06/06]

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 6, 2006

Sharpening its decision from two months ago, supervisors will set a public hearing to amend Warren County’s subdivision ordinance when the board meets formally again Oct. 16.

Supervisors have decided to gather public input on the matter after realizing the 30-page ordinance has no specific provisions for enforcement.

It was passed in 2004 as an attempt to have some regulatory control over neighborhood development. Maintenance of most subdivisions eventually becomes a public responsibility and the idea of the ordinance is to avoid poor drainage and shoddy roads becoming a liability.

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Though board members were vague on the best way to enforce the ordinance, they did agree the current method of enforcement is too casual.

&#8220We want to encourage communication between the county and developers. There is never a need for having ‘cease and desist’ letters,” District 5 Supervisor Richard George said, referencing past letters sent from the county’s engineering firm when violations were found.

Many developers, accustomed to operating in an atmosphere of loose restriction and no zoning or building standards, objected to any controls on new developments but did work with the board in drafting the new law.

The ordinance asks builders to submit preliminary plats showing a broad definition of the area being developed, including names, widths and distances between roads. After that, a construction plan must be done, showing the kind of drainage and elevation that can support a road the county can maintain.

Since then, developers and construction professionals have grumbled on certain factors unique to their development, such as whether the moving of dirt to set roadbeds counts as &#8220construction.”

Disagreements on that came to light in August after the county halted work in The Trace subdivision off Fisher Ferry Road because drawings were not filed by the developer before work began to level the land and complete the main road into the subdivision.

Only within the past three months did the county hire an on-site permit enforcement officer to check on developments. The current procedure if violations are found entails the County Administrator drafting a letter on behalf of the board to the developer or the primary engineering firm.

This was the only change the board agreed to make following the dispute with those involved in The Trace. Previously, the letter was written by ABMB Engineers Inc.

Citing Section 702 of the ordinance, District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders said the board can amend or change the ordinance in accordance with board policy.

&#8220We want input to have stronger enforcement language in it,” Flanders said.

Penalties for developers and other entities involved in subdivision and road design found to be in violation of the ordinance can face misdemeanor charges and fines of up to $500.