Red Cross fires zoning director, sets hearings for town center plan, subdivision moratorium

The Red Cross Town Council changed the minimum size of certain lots, set public meetings regarding subdivisions and the town center plan and let go of the town’s zoning officer during Monday’s meeting.

After a closed session, the board voted 4-0 to terminate the contract of Michael Sandy as zoning enforcement officer. Sandy, who served more than two decades as the county’s planning director, had worked with Red Cross since 2017.

Councilman Andrew Smith said “we thank Mr. Michael Sandy for his time in Red Cross as our planning and zoning officer, and that we terminate his contract and move forward.”

Sandy advised the board earlier in the meeting about discussions of imposing a subdivision moratorium and the town center plan, saying both would need to have a public hearing before the council could move forward.

The council passed motions to conduct hearings before the regularly scheduled meeting April 10. The location of the hearings may change to accommodate speakers. The council meeting room Monday was filled, with others listening from the adjoining offices of the town hall.

After a public hearing in which no one spoke about the text amendment change, Smith reported to council information from the March 7 planning board meeting and started the discussion on the new minimum lot size.

A 3-1 vote, with Trina Plowman voting against the motion, approved the change of a minimum lot size in the residential/agricultural zone from 40,000 square feet, or roughly .9 acres, to 100,000 square feet, approximately 2.3 acres.

Plowman asked the council to table the item for 30 days.

“I’d like to know a little bit more (and have) a little bit better understanding of what this all entails,” she said.

“I think there’s a lot of folks in town who are concerned about the type of growth it seems we are encouraging and allowing to happen,” Smith added.

He said the number one interest of developers “is maximizing their profit,” and said their interests include “making a lot as small as they can (which) goes against one of our founding principles: to remain rural.”

Smith said the town’s planning board recommended the text amendment change at the February meeting with a 5-0 vote.

Mayor Kelly Brattain presented a hypothetical scenario where a person with 2.5 acres of land wanted to divide part of it to build a home for their child.

“They would come to the board and say, ‘I’ve only got 2.5 acres. I want to take care of my kid.’ I don’t know a single one of us up here on the board that would not vote immediately to rezone that so a father or mother could take care of their kid,” Smith said. “This is not aimed at our citizens to tell them you can’t build houses on your property to take care of your family.”

Smith said if developers do not care about keeping Red Cross rural and want to make as much money as possible, “good luck. I hope you make all the money you can, but not at the expense of the character of our town.”

Other residential zones exist in Red Cross, Smith said, like R-40, which is a 40,000 square foot minimum.

The new R/A size would allow residents more room for agricultural activities, Smith said, like a large garden, small farm animals or horses.