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Boards urge fewer limits on growth

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Long-range growth plans for Henderson County should stay away from some types of regulation on development and have less emphasis on regional economic cooperation, members of two volunteer planning boards have said.

The county's comprehensive plan, a long-range policy guide for the County Commission, should not try to make developers reuse abandoned buildings, keep buildings from blocking scenic views or overly restrict construction near flood-prone areas, members of the county Planning Board and county comprehensive plan advisory committee told county planning staff Monday.

Members of the joint committee also backed away from the use of impact fees and from strong ties to regional economic development.

Commissioners, who appointed the members, told the joint committee to have the final draft of the comprehensive plan written by June. 1.

Monday, the committee members reacted to an initial draft compiled by county planner Joshua Freeman.

Member Mike Cooper, a construction company owner, said a policy requiring the reuse of abandoned sites would allow the owners of those sites to "hold hostage" developers.

Planning Board Chairman Tedd Pearce agreed, saying the plan should use incentives, not restrictions, to revitalize unused sites.

"Oftentimes the reason buildings are abandoned is because they are functionally obsolete," said Pearce, a home builder. Committee members had Freeman substitute the word "encourage" for "require" and eliminate the example of withholding rezoning as a tool to make developers use abandoned sites. They also had Freeman strike the word "financial" in front of "incentives," saying there were other types of incentives, such as infrastructure improvement.

Member Wayne Carland, a Mills River town councilman, said he did not want the plan to regulate "viewsheds" -- areas considered to have scenic views. Carland, a farmer and developer, also spoke against a policy of stricter regulations in or near flood-prone areas.

"There is a lot of regulation already about watersheds," Carland said. It was Carland who also suggested removing wording that stressed regional economic planning.

The draft said the county's economy does not operate in isolation. It said, "Therefore, economic development polices and actions must be regional in scope."

Carland asked to remove the word "must," saying that some regional deals had resulted in fiascoes.

Pearce, Cooper and Leon Allison came out against policies that would use impact fees.

Freeman said that some governments require developers to put down "deposits" so that if an owner later abandons a site, the money can be used to help find new occupants.

Allison, who owns a stonework and landscaping business, said such a move would further stymie business growth.

"We're hurting for jobs bad enough. You do that and you're going to discourage businesses even more," he said.

Contact Burgess at 694-7860 or via e-mail at [email protected]

It would be great to see Henderson County create strong growth restrictions that encourage development in the town centers and discourage development in rural areas. I'm sure Hendersonville would also like to see something like that! I don't think developers should be forced to reuse buildings, but they should be encouraged to reuse them with tax breaks and some code changes for older structures, as many other major NC cities are doing.

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