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Counselor addresses nuisance allegations

Albemarle City Council received a report from Dr. Laura Harbeson of Creative Counseling regarding renewed nuisance allegations by neighboring residents.

Appearing as an unannounced delegation Monday night, Harbeson and Jon-Michael Haymond addressed a number of allegations levied by College Park residents Michael Lambert and Jerry Myers Nov. 18.

“Many of these allegations range from exaggerations to falsehoods,” Harbeson said.

“The fence (which by ordinance must be 200 feet from any residence) has been measured, and will be tied in to land leased from Stanly Community College,” she said, referring to a recent agreement with the college to use a tract of its land for the horses.

A key issue has involved horse waste, which residents have complained is not being removed daily. At an earlier meeting, supporters of Creative Counseling had indicated their willingness to volunteer to remove the droppings.

But, according to Harbeson, using clients and their families in such a role creates a legal problem.

“This would be considered exploitation,” she said, noting she, Haymond, her staff and two volunteers from Central Elementary School are removing the waste, and have done so 55 times since Sept. 3, roughly every other day.

“We are doing our best to remove the waste as often as we can,” said Harbeson, noting that weather, shorter days and counseling commitments have made daily removal difficult.

Haymond interjected that the applicable city ordinance (81.04) does not specify daily removal, and Harbeson noted most equine facilities spread the manure across their pastures rather than removing it.

“But, because the residents and council have requested it be removed, that’s what we are trying to do,” she said.

Another accusation made by College Park residents was that horse waste was simply being covered with straw.

“That is not true,” Harbeson said. “We always remove the horse waste. In some cases, we have spread straw on muddy spots, but only after removing any manure that was already there.”

Regarding allegations made by Lambert Nov. 18 that “most of these people (clients of Creative Counseling) are not residents of the city and do not pay city taxes,” Harbeson said her records indicate Creative Counseling “has more clients who live inside the (Albemarle) city limits than live in the College Park neighborhood.”

In closing, Harbeson invited council members to tour the facility.

“Come out and see,” she said. “We have nothing to hide.”

Following Harbeson’s remarks, Haymond expressed concerns with the process by which concerns have been delivered to council by College Park residents, with no notification to Creative Counseling.

“This is frustrating,” he said. “I feel we are being targeted unfairly, with no chance to rebut their complaints. Then the reports hit the newspaper and the radio, and people automatically assume we are in the wrong.”

Haymond took exception to a number of comments made by council members during the Nov. 18 meeting in response to complaints delivered by Lambert and Myers.

“Mr. Lambert seemed to get sympathy from some of you,” he said, and as an example cited a comment made by Councilman Chris Bramlett, who referred to one photo as depicting “a cesspool.”

“Yet, we had no opportunity to defend ourselves,” Haymond said.
Mayor Ronnie Michael responded that the council is required to allow for public comment.

“Citizens have a right to come to City Council,” he said.

“And council has a responsibility to listen to all citizens,” Haymond said.

Councilman Dexter Townsend suggested an agenda item with both sides represented be set, but did not deliver the suggestion in the form of a motion. He then suggested the two sides communicate with each other.

Haymond agreed to make contact with the College Park group and to report back to council.

In other action, City Council:

• Approved a right-of-way agreement with American Fiber and Finishing.

• Recogned retiring City Clerk Paulette Bowers.

• Received the 2018-19 City Audit report.

• Named a new street off N.C. Highway 24-27 “Barnard Poplin Drive.”

• Tabled discussion of appointments to city boards and commissions.
The next meeting of the council will take place at 7 p.m. Jan. 6.