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by Jordan Green

EFFORTS TO MODERNIZE GREENSBORO LAND DEVELOP- MENT ORDINANCE FACE HURDLES

Efforts to modernize the city of Greensboro’s Land Development Ordinance appear headed for trouble. Council members hammered staff with questions about the changes during a briefing on Feb. 2.

Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan said she is concerned that the draft, a new document, does not show changes, and there could be unintended consequences that adversely impact property owners.

City staff and council members have been deluged with phone calls and e-mails from property owners who received a letter notifying them of the effort to revamp the ordinance, mostly expressing confusion about what the changes mean rather than objecting to specific components.

District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade asked why the city should revise its land development ordinance when Guilford County and High Point are not updating theirs, and questioned whether the changes should wait considering that the county and the city of Greensboro are in the midst of discussions about merging planning departments. Wade and Vaughan both pressed Planning Director Dick Hails, to no avail, to quantify how many ordinance changes are required every year because the city’s code of ordinances is out of date. Mary Skenes, a member of the Citizen Advisory Team and a realtor, said she has invested four years of her life in the process. District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small said that some of the confusion surrounding the process might be related to the fact that it has stretched over the course of three separate councils.

The Citizen Advisory Team has been dominated by real estate professionals, with significant input from New Urbanist proponent David Wharton. Hails said the purpose of updating the ordinance is to streamline the process and make it more user-friendly to developers.

Mayor Bill Knight asked Hails: “Are we trying to be business friendly, helping them reduce barriers?” The planning director responded, “In my view, absolutely.”Meanwhile, a number of the provisions to make the city more environmentally sustainable appear to be at risk.

District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny asked Hails if the requirement for developers to plant one tree on each new residential house lot was still in the draft. Hails replied that it was, but if council doesn’t support it, it will be taken out.

Hails added that the Triad Real Estate and Building Industries Coalition, a powerful advocacy group whose members contribute handsomely to political campaigns and are amply represented on citizen boards, has concerns with three provisions in the draft ordinance. One of them is a provision to increase the required level of street connections. Hails said staff has already reduced the ratio of intersections to links in the draft, but currently the draft would require more street connections than neighboring Winston-Salem.

MANAGEMENT CONCERNS A MAJOR REASON FOR EMPLOYEES LEAVING GREENSBORO

Lacy DeBerry, an employee relations consultant for the Greensboro Human Resources Department, reports that one of the primary reasons employees leave their jobs with the city is because of management concerns. City Manager Rashad Young reported to council on Feb. 5 that an analysis of exit data found that “employees leave because of work conditions and management concerns; they enjoyed their tenure up until a point, get along well with their peers, enjoyed the benefits; they did not leave for more money, but better opportunities, a change of environment, promotion or retirement; [and] most would return if the economy, supervision, leadership/direction of their division/department changed.”

OFFICER BLAKE TO GO BEFORE STANDARDS COMMISSION

Greensboro police Officer AJ Blake goes before the NC Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission for a probable cause hearing on Feb. 17, said Jennifer Canada, a spokeswoman for the NC Department of Justice. The commission will review Blake’s behavior at a drunken police party in January 2009. Blake was acquitted by a jury in July of two charges of assaulting a female, one of which involved Blake’s girlfriend, Sandra Sanchez. Detective James Schwochow testified that he filed a second charge alleging the assault of Sanchez three weeks after the incident, and only because his sergeant ordered it after a conference with the Guilford County District Attorney’s Office. The Rev. Cardes Brown, an advocate for Blake, said recently that the officer’s law enforcement license could be suspended for up to five years. The hearing is closed to the public.

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