sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Planning board recommends scenic corridor ordinance.....

What is this, a county commissioners' meeting or something?

The marquee event of the Guilford County Planning Board was supposed to discusson of the proposed scenic corridor ordinance. The place was packed. A guy with earrings and painted fingernails was present, taking pictures of placards with his camera phone. County commissioner Skip Alston was in attendance. You could sense this was an emotional issue.

Also on the agenda was a major mixed development project on McConnell Road by Shugart Enterprises, which drew a fair amount of opposition.

But, of all things, the board got hung up on a rezoning case involving a peaceful family farm trying to make some extra money. In the process, the board discussed naked men running out of bushes and Boy Scouts sleeping with goats.

"I have to tell you, I don't think those Boy Scouts ought to be sleeping out there with the goats," said board member Mary Skenes.

Here's the deal: Joe Hodgin, representing the Hodgin family farm, wanted a special use permit to open a bed and breakfast and use the surrounding land for various outdoor events. Weddings. Busloads of kids coming out to feed the goats. An annual event honoring emergency workers. Perhaps in the future, some Boy Scouts can pitch some tents out there.

The closest neighbors would be the Hodgins themselves. Still, some neighbors were opposed, worried about loud music and wild parties. One neighbor said that, in 1993, someone saw a naked man come running out of the bushes.

Hodgin admitted there may have been some wild parties in the past, but he assured the board that those days were past and his establishment would be devoted to the betterment of the community. He convinced me of his honorable intentions.

(Speaking of wild parties, I ran into Alf, who had a few of his own in West Jefferson.)

But the board went round and round about the conditions of use. Hodgin stood there and said he'd do anything the board wanted to get it over with. Then the board went around again. Could he sell tickets? what kind of music? How late into the night? Etc. Just when everyone thought the issue was setttled, board member Apple asked Hodgin one last time if he was comfortable with the no-camping restriction.

To tell the truth, Hodgin said, some Boy Scouts might want to come pitch a tent there on the farm.

That led to another round of figuring out how the county can legally let Boy Scouts pitch a tent on the farm. Finally, the board passed the most controversial unanimous vote I've ever seen, allowing Hodgin to set up his "outdoor events facility."

By this time, everyone was starting to realize they weren't getting out of there until midnight at the latest. It's entirely possible scenic corridor proponents had given up and gone home, except for the guy with the earrings. (To tell the truth, I didn't talk to him, so for all I know he's a billboard proponent.) That's because the overwhelming majority of the people left were billboard proponents. Just about every speaker, including many advertising industry reps) spoke out against the ordinance, evoking property owners' rights and a local economy that needs all the help it can get. Board member Winchester asked everyone who was against it to stand, and the just about the whole room jumped to its feet. (I didn't notice if the guy with the earrings did.)

Little good it, as the board recommended by a unanimous vote to pass the ordinance on to the county commissioners, where no one knows what will happen. Too much work went into crafting the ordinance to let it die there, one board member said. But it will have a tough time surviving the county commissioners.


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