The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

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February 28, 2014

Town considers county for zoning help

Thursday, February 27, 2014 — The town of Richfield is only one step away from asking the county to assist with its zoning administration.

Following a presentation by Stanly County Zoning Director Michael Sandy, the Town Council moved to adopt an inter-local agreement that would contract the town to issue its zoning permits and enforce its zoning codes.

However, the vote was delayed until the town’s next meeting, March 24, to give the Council more time to gather information and think consider the county’s proposal.

The town handles its own zoning permits and enforcement, a process which the Council said can be both time-consuming and difficult. However, the county’s Zoning Department has been looking to expand its services in this area.

If the proposal is approved, there would be no direct cost to the town for the zoning permits.

“When an applicant comes in for their permit, we charge them a fee based on our fee schedule,” Sandy said.

Code enforcement, though, would come with a charge to the town.

“We would ask $30 an hour plus expenses,” Sandy said.

“Expenses usually consist of mileage and postage associated with mailing paperwork.”

With outside contractors charging $50-$80 for code-enforcement work, Sandy said it ends up being a good bargain.

“The reason we started doing this is because other towns were going to these outside contractors,” he said.

“We wanted to keep the money in Stanly County.”

The county already issues the zoning permits for Badin, New London, Norwood, Misenheimer, Red Cross and Albemarle.

They do code enforcement for Badin, New London, Norwood, Locust and Oakboro.

“You still have sole control over what your ordinances say, we just enforce them,” Sandy said.

That enforcement can be either complaint based or actively enforced.

“For example, with Locust we’re primarily complaint driven. With Badin, we do a lot of active enforcement,” Sandy said.

With active enforcement, Sandy said his department can do regular sweeps, going street by street, to catch zoning violations. The municipalities that adopt it usually do so because they want to see a tax base improvement.

“You improve the community, you improve the tax base,” he said.

“And that’s something that’s good for both the county and the town.”

Richfield’s commissioners leaned toward the active enforcement option, but no definite decisions were made on the matter.

While he could not give a specific figure as to how much the inter-local agreement would cost, Sandy said he estimated it would be about about $6,000 a year.

“Five hundred dollars a month on average. Though, [with active enforcement] the first few months cost more to get the ball rolling,” he said.

“After that, it goes down though. I believe Badin’s bill was somewhere around $200 this month.”

The Council plans to talk to other towns about the details of their programs before making its decision on the matter next month.

In the meantime, Sandy asked the Council to begin the process of changing its current zoning ordinances in order to comply with new state standards.

Last year, the state revamped its legislation on how the board of adjustments should function because its old standards, which had not been changed since the 1950s, were causing a number of court cases. The new legislation was passed to standardize hearing processes, notice of procedures, posting of property and other logistical guidelines.

“Right now your ordinances conflict with these new general statutes,” Sandy said.

The Council agreed to get the process rolling by scheduling a public hearing on the matter at its March 24 meeting. After the public hearing, it can take a vote on the new zoning ordinance.

At the meeting, the Council also looked over three possible gun ordinances the town could adopt. Following complaints from citizens, the town has been looking into ways to amend its current gun ordinance which the sheriff’s office informed them cannot be enforced as it is written. The Council hopes to draft a final version soon and schedule a public hearing.

The Council approved the Carolina Thread Trail Committee, a joint effort of Misenheimer, New London and Richfield, to accept a $100,000 grant for an extension of the Thread Trail through northern Stanly County.

Town commissioners passed an ordinance naming the town of Richfield a Purple Heart City. Richfield is the sixth municipality in Stanly County to do so.

To submit story ideas, contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24 or at shannon@stanlynews press.com.

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