Tempers "know no bounds" at public forum on county-wide zoning

Photo By Lesley Jenkins
Planning Director Chris Schuetter answers a manÕs questions by showing the map of what the 2nd district will look like if the zoning ordinance passes.

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
Editor's note: This story will be the first in a series concerning county wide zoning before the County Commission votes on Oct. 20. Other questions about zoning will be addressed in additional stories during this week.
Tempers flared and voices were raised during a public meeting of the 2nd District of Carter County held in the Cloudland Elementary School gymnasium Tuesday evening. More than 100 Roan Mountain residents freely expressed, by an overwhelming majority, that zoning in their district will not be happily welcomed.
Commissioners of the district, Wayne Holtsclaw, Amos Stephens and Al Meehan called the meeting to hear the voices of their constituents.
Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler defined the zoning ordinance as land use planning for future development. Schuettler said he was invited to the public forum to "discuss the meat and potatoes of what zoning will be."
Schuettler answered numerous questions from citizens about permit fees that will have to be paid if the zoning ordinance passes during the Oct. 20 county commission meeting at 10 a.m. He said there are several instances when permit fees would not be required. Because of the nature of the public meeting and the fact that it was held in the gymnasium, several citizens could not hear or did not have adequate time to have a long discussion about the permits.
Schuettler answered a question raised about the time limit of replacing a damaged mobile home by saying that, once the mobile home is moved, the owner has six months to replace the unit with a unit of equal or greater value. He also emphasized that many people will choose not to move the old home before finding adequate funding for a new one, so the time limit will not start until the old home is removed.
The Board of Zoning Appeals is established in Carter County to hear citizens' concerns about zoning, including those about rezoning, asking for more time to fix a non-conforming use, or interpreting zoning definitions.
"There was a piece of property the county bought after the flood. When an appraiser came in, a private appraiser; he came in and appraised the property; he had to put 'non-zoned'. Now, he just did a piece of appraisal on half the amount of mobile homes and the gentleman got three quarters of the amount that the unzoned gentleman got up here (in Roan Mountain). I asked him 'why.' He said because it was zoned property. I can ask for more money because the zoning was there. That just happened today," said Schuettler.
A question was directed to County Mayor Dale Fair about statements he allegedly made while campaigning for County Executive/County Mayor. "I don't live in Roan Mountain, but I live in Carter County. And what I said was, 'What is good for one Carter Countian is good for all,'" Fair replied.
In response, a concerned man in the audience replied, "We enjoy our lifestyle. We don't want it to change. And we don't want zoning."
Other citizens questioned why a community vote could not be taken and the decision be based on the results. Fair said that, according to the County Attorney, state law prohibits zoning referendums. "You can have a ballot box, separate from your voting. But you cannot have a referendum. It has to be voted on by your representatives," said Fair.
One man requested an unofficial show of hands of those in the audience who are against zoning. The overwhelming majority of people voted "no" on the issue. However, all residents of the 2nd District were not present for the demonstration of hands, and the influence the unofficial vote had on the three commissioners will not be evident until the issue is heard before the county commission.
Meehan said to the crowd, "You'll see what I am going to vote for on Monday." But he also encouraged those who were unable to attend or who would like to discuss the issue further to contact him.