Apr 242010
 

Y
esterday, many of you received an email blast from the executive board of the WCWAA concerning the possibility of the park being forced to shut down. The prospect is unthinkable to every parent whose children use and depend on the park — except of course, to a few county government bureaucrats.

Once again it seems that Union County is bedeviled by people with glaring ‘Conflicts of Interest’ being in a position to act in behalf of the own personal interest. The park issue is no different and here is why!

Would it surprise you know that Union County HIRED an outspoken adjoining property owner to the park and according to the Enquirer Journal article included below, a leader of the park opposition? This individual is now employed as Storm Water Engineer in the Union County Public Works Department and has been since 2008!!! The very department trying to close WCWAA by regulatory fiat! This isn’t an X-FILE, folks!

It has been obvious from the start, that the adjoining property owners are trying to leverage the floodplain issue as a way to bankrupt and close the park. Were they to have “Agent on the Inside”, such a circumstance could and would have certainly aided their cause.

I find it curious and remarkably convenient that someone would leave their job as an engineer with the City of Charlotte at the same time they were embroiled in the WCWAA issue, only to take a job with Union County. But for the sake of argument, lets assume the actions by the county towards the park were not influenced by this employee, instead lets examine why the County would hire someone with a history of being actively involved in a local controversy and place that individual in the inevitable position of giving the appearance that decisions were made for personal benefit.

Over the years, I have hammered the point, that imagined or real conflicts of interest shake the foundation of trust in government and I have grave misgivings with the conduct, perspective and impartiality of some county staff members, involved in this matter.

Here’s more.

It was recently revealed that a (another) County UCPW employee inadvertently or ‘accidentally on purpose’ neglected to provide email correspondence she had with a state agency, which was the subject of a “Freedom of Information” (FOI) filing. The WCWAA representative only found about the missing items, when the same FOI request to the state revealed the emails.

Apparently, from the content of the emails, it is be easy to understand why someone might be reluctant to comply, because what those emails revealed was a unilateral decision by this employee to refuse the state’s suggestions of how to mediate and quickly solve the park’s problems.

Emails held back from WCWAA Freedom of Information request:

Email 1: From Ed Curtis of NC Emergency Management, declaring a CLOMR (Condition Letter of Map Revsion) was an option to resolve the park compliance issue. View Email 1 – 2008-03-07

Email 2: County employee questions whether a CLOMR is an valid. View Email 2 – 2008-03-10

Email 3: Email from Ed Curtis saying that a CLOMR IS an option, refuting the County employee assertion. View Email 3 – 2008-03-14

Email 4: Email where County employee responds saying “What’s to keep them from removing a bucket load of dirt and calling it good”? View Email 4 – 2008-03-17

Email 5: Email from Ed Curtis taking the CLOMR option off the table. Email 5 – 2008-03-17

And still more.

One of the issues yet to be resolved is establishing a base flood level. This is done by comparing a flood map from prior years to current. The County staff magically produced a 1997 map as base of comparison and subsequently declared that WCWAA field construction had created a one foot rise.

When the WCWAA asked for a copy, the staff sent only the elevation map and was unable to provide the accompanying high-res aerial photos, stating that they ‘were not’ available. WCWAA had to track down the surveyor who produced the maps to get the photos.

Would it surprise you to learn that photos showed a subdivision grading underway, a road and cul-de-sac in place and that Union County was willing to make one-foot rise judgment, while ignoring obvious contributions of a subdivision (do note: Union County permitted a subdivision to be built in a flood plain) grading had on the flood plain.

Click here to view WCWAA area 1997 photo the County staff didn’t have.

Once this information came to light, Commissioner Kuehler met with the County Manager and Director of Public Works, to ask for an explanation of this behavior. She is still waiting…

What’s next.

If you consider all the facets of the WCWAA case; the upstream and downstream development construction, the lack of County permit enforcement, park engineering issues and the need for the park, it is plain to see that reasonable compromise and accommodation could have prevailed — it should have prevailed. Had there been any interest by the Union County staff or 2006-2008 Commissioner majority, the solution would have be found and implemented by now.

It wasn’t.

Instead, with a bureaucratic belligerency as evident by the emails and actions taken to date, the solution to keeping the park open has been left in the hands of cold, black or white thinking regulators who weld FEMA no-rise regulations like it was handed down from Mount Olympus.

There WAS an opportunity that the state offered Union County, that was taken off the table in a self-righteous zeal, disguised as professional opinion. That’s the way I read those emails. That’s the way I interpret the withholding of the emails from the FOI request. I can argue that there is a prejudice against the park, against those who built it and especially against those who use it.

The decision by Baucom, Mills & Pressley to sue WCWAA for compliance, the way it was added as a last minute agenda item, to the 3-2 vote is proof of the mindset. Openshaw and Lane were in the minority.

Meanwhile western Union County hasn’t a single park to call it’s own, and the park we do have and fund 95% ourselves is a target.

The current Commissioner majority is working towards finding a resolution, but they need the active support of WCWAA members and involvement in the process.

Below is a post I wrote in 2007,

The following post was published in the VSO on Septemeber 18, 2007

WCWAA Blindsided by County Commissioners vote

Last night, in an action that was nothing short of ‘premeditated’, Union County Commissioners Baucom, Mills and Pressley blindsided the Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association (WCWAA), when they voted to order county lawyers to begin legal actions against the association regarding flooding issues affecting adjoining properties.
Back-stabbed

Without benefit or courtesy of the customary public notice, Commissioner Pressley added the WCWAA issue to last nights agenda and after a brisk discussion with staff, Commissioner Mills made the motion to start legal ball rolling. Commission Openshaw objected to the ‘unfairness’ of taking action without giving prior notice and voted against Mr. Mills motion as did Roger Lane.

Media Coverage

Enquirer Journal: WCWAA, neighbors at odds over fill dirt, flooding near park

The Other Side

In a letter to WCWAA members early last month, Gary Hibler, President of the association stated :

    ..there are a very few families who own property in close proximity to our athletic fields who would like to shut us down. In short, they are accusing us of undertaking actions which increased the flooding of their properties even though most of their properties were already in whole or in part in the flood plain when they bought them. I state emphatically to you that these accusations are unfounded, untrue and that WCWAA has constantly followed the technical and procedural requirements of all governmental and regulatory agencies. We constructed our facilities and are operating them in a lawful manner. The engineering firm that we obtained to assist us in our construction has confirmed on several occasions that under no circumstances has WCWAA done anything which has aggravated the tenancy of the surrounding properties to flood.

In recent months, the commissioners have had a number of closed (secret) meetings with the County and staff attorneys to discuss the issue and during the discussion last night, Mr. Pressley alluded to a meeting with the WCWAA representatives, who he said were given 7 days to respond. Evidently when they didn’t, then Pressley and company were provoked to act.

What the contributing factors are or whose at fault, pardon the pun, is very murky at best. The county flood plain rises as the more development takes place. For example, how much has the new Shea Home development (Hollister) contributed to the flooding? The more water is displaced the higher the flood plain rises everywhere else. The real question is whose agenda is served by this premature action.

Frankly, I was surprised that Baucom, Mills and Pressley took time away the many early Christmas gifts they handed out to the county developers, with the ‘new’, previously secret sewer policy that gives all the sewer and WATER homebuilders need to construct the more than 8100 homes in the pipeline, but that is subject of another post.

Nov 012009
 

W
eddington mayor, Nancy Anderson has been in office for three continuous terms starting in 2003. In her first campaign, she ran as an advocate for return to one acre (R40) subdivisions zoning, opposing the RCD cluster subdivisions that had been authorized by her predecessor, Ed Howie. She won with a big margin.

Since taking office, Mrs. Anderson has been embroiled in one controversy seemingly after another – though not always of her own doing. Months after taking office, she partook in the boycotting a regular town meeting, a meeting that as mayor she would direct, joining council members Ken Evans and Robert Gilmartin (Gilmartin was out of town on business), to prevent the appointment to the Weddington Planning Board of members who favored the RCD subdivision ordinance. She has not shied away from using political maneuvers to attain her goals.

Many recall, the in the spring of 2006, a scant 3 months after taking her oath for office as Mayor, Mrs. Anderson ran for another office: Union County Commissioner. Hardly the commitment you’d expect after just winning election!

Upon losing in the first round of the Republican primary, Ms. Anderson endorsed candidates Parker Mills and Stony Rushing because “overall they exemplify my philosophy more than the other two.” (‘the other two’ refers to Lanny Openshaw & Richard Stone who ran in the run-off). A clear indication that developer special interests was high on her list of concerns.

The last 6 years have been tumultuous at times, leaping from one controversial issue to another, dividing the residents into pro or anti-Anderson camps. The most notable controversies deal with the roads; the Rea Road Extension, the NC 84 round-about (rotary), The WOODS pump station, the lending of Weddington funds to NCDOT to build the roads Anderson was lobbying them about, giving more than $140,000 to Weddington High School for a weight room (Gilmartin proposal) and the 2008 tax increase to Weddington residents. (Note: Weddington did not reduce their tax rate after the revalue. Weddington residents saw a 60% increase in property values.)

Weddington, under Mayor Anderson’s leadership, was very active in imposing involuntary annexations of unincorporated property in recent years. Many newly indentured residents aren’t very happy, but then again, Weddington did get more than they bargained for when Union County dropped the WCWAA flooding issue (expense) in the town’s lap. (WCWAA, Weddington, Union County and the state are working toward resolving the issues in the near future.)

It is not my intention to recount every controversy involving the mayor over that last six years. As much as the Mayor Anderson and I disagree on some issues, but I will be first to acknowledge the energy and perseverance she brings to her efforts. She is a force to be reckoned in everything she does.

2009 Election

Much of the 2009 Weddington campaign rhetoric concerning the mayor revolves around accusations of ‘Conflict of Interest’ on Mayor Anderson’s part, highlighted in the following news report, aired last July.




Here on the VSO, the mayors husband, Phil Anderson has denied any conflicts of interest exist, as has the Mayor herself in the video. I suppose the perception of a conflict carries weight in those who oppose the mayor’s candidacy. All things considered, Mayor Anderson has been banging the drum for a number of road projects that are unpopular with some and not with others. Questions of how most Weddington residents feel is what the election will settle.

This TV news video from the fall of 2008 concerns the Weddington annexations.

Changing course

The town of Weddington is undergoing major changes with the widening of Providence Road. The Town commercial center has been under great stress as both the economy and access restrictions have been major impediments to doing business. Many believe that Weddington is at a crossroads and the wrong decisions will forever change the town, for the worse. No one can deny that the distrust of motivations is where this concern emanates — fair or not.

Nancy Anderson has had three terms to articulate, advocate and use the bully pulpit of her office to move her vision of Weddington forward. In my view, now its time for new leadership, if for no other reason than to change the tone, remove suspicions and build a consensus with its citizens as to how Weddington should evolve as a community.

The VSO has endorsed Barbara Harrison for mayor for many of the reasons highlighted in the paragraghs above. Mrs. Harrison’s professional experience and laid back personality, we believe will make great strides in bringing Weddington’s Town Council together and traveling down the same road – so to speak.

Council race

In Weddington’s district Council race, the VSO finds itself dealing with one of the piques of ‘Districting’, having to decide between two good candidates for the same seat, LA Smith and Werner Thomisser. We’ve given the nod to Mr. Thomisser, because we believe he will bring a clarity to town issues that truly reflect the taxpayers concerns.

Jul 212009
 

WBT Channel 3 Report


Earlier this morning, in the midst of the massive thunderstorm that swept though western Union County, a bolt of lightning struck a home in Aero Plantation, resulting in a fire that burned the house to the ground. Firefighters, according to the story were hampered by a gate and the need bring water to dose the fire from the local lake. Two adults and their pets escaped unharmed.

I assume that Aero Plantation does not have fire hydrants throughout the subdivision, which is typical of subdivisions built on well and septic.


The question remains, why did a house in a major development, within a couple miles of a major fire station – burned to the ground? Apparently, no Union County authority investigates or performs any review of a major fire or incident.

sowka1123baronrdweddington
Sowka home prior to destruction by fire

In the aftermath of the total loss of Mark and Karen Sowka’s home and in lieu of any specific answers, a few facts have surfaced:

  • Very early in the response phase, the Ladder truck (L26) of Wesley Chapel VFD failed to negotiate the turn into the south Aero Plantation entrance, crashing though the gate and was stuck fast in the mud. The truck straddled the road and blocked the entrance, necessitating that all following apparatus to circumnavigate the subdivision to the northern entrance via Weddington Road, near the intersection of Twelve Mile Creek and NC 84. This added minutes on the equipment response time and it is unclear how this effected, if it did at all, the ability of the firefighters to subdue the blaze.
  • The subdivision does not have fire hydrants, nor were there any dry hydrants by the lake to aid in providing water to save the Sowka’s home. The firefighters had to wade into the lake to place the pumps to refill their water tanks.
  • The HOA of Aero Plantation should contact County Fire Marshalls office and co-ordinate with the local VFD’s to pre-plan a respond to the subdivision’s needs. Apparently, this has never been done.
  • A review of the circumstances surrounding the total loss of the Sowka’s home should be performed by an independent professional. It is only logical to assume that something could be learned that would better aid firefighters and the response system of Union County in the future.

Short of information to the contrary and assuming that the Fire Department handled the call correctly, every homeowner in Aero Plantation should beware of they could suffer the same fate as the Sowka home, if nothing is done address the issue.

I will update this page as more information comes forward. Please email me if you have any information to contribute.

Jun 072009
 

The following is the Press Release:

BARBARA HARRISON ANNOUNCES AS CANDIDATE FOR THE MAYOR OF WEDDINGTON

Weddington, NC – June 5, 2009: Today, Barbara Harrison, a retired executive from Johnson & Johnson and Weddington activist announced her candidacy for the office of Mayor of Weddington. Ms. Harrison stated bluntly that the time is long overdue for  “Weddington to have a responsive, responsible and most important, transparent leadership.” She continued, “We can’t continue to have a government whose every action is tainted by questions concerning the personal gains or interests of individual council members.”

“This November, the voters will have a stark choice and I will work hard for their vote”, stated Harrison.

Ms. Harrison cited her executive experience, which included the management of an annual $90 million budget, numerous achievement awards and the ability to work with regulatory agencies. “Weddington is at a crossroads, every decision we make, will have lasting impact”, said Harrison, “We have to plan and create policies to address the big picture, support our business community and ensure that Weddington’s quality of life continues to be what our citizens desire.

Ms. Harrison pledged to work with the town council to:

  • Commission a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan that solicits citizen opinion and lays a strong foundation for future growth that serves the town of Weddington.
  • To join with our neighboring towns to build a regional awareness and partner on projects that will benefit us all.
  • To develop new policies to address the inherent unfairness to citizens of permit procedures.
  • Bring a more professional atmosphere to council meetings.

Barbara Harrison’s impressive resume includes a degree in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science from Kean University (NJ) and a litany of professional achievements.  She is also on the board of directors for Christ Our Shepherd Ministries and is the Republican Precinct 41 Chairperson. Ms Harrison resides with her husband Pat in Stratford on Providence subdivision.

Jun 052009
 

Weddington’s Self Serving Town Officials!
By Hughie Sexton

Weddington shenanigans continue with the latest consideration from the Town Council to give $145,000 to Weddington High School for a weight room is just another example of how far from reality the town’s officials have drifted from their duties and responsibilities.

A Union County Public Schools spokesperson, said the donation for the weight room would be “unprecedented” in Union County history and is normally a function of the school system funded through our county taxes. Obviously, that’s not good enough for Mayor Anderson and Councilman Gilmartin who want to double-dip the Weddington taxpayers with this sizeable contribution to Weddington High School!

Mayor Anderson and Councilman Gilmartin were both supporting this effort, and were all ready to close the deal at a recent meeting just like a similar $100,000 donation to WCWAA (Wesley Chapel Weddington Athletic Association) Likewise, county athletic associations are subsidized with county tax dollars through the Parks & Recreation Dept. Another double-dip!

The ridiculous suggestion from Mayor Anderson after initially indicating support for the weight room donation was to ask the school system to allow local residents the right to use the weight room. Imagine how chaotic that would be!

When Mayor Anderson saw that she would probably have to break a 2-2- tie on the weight room donation, she opted to ask Councilman Gilmartin to withdraw his motion so she could have more information thereby referring it to the budget process away from debate, discussion and citizen scrutiny. More time wasn’t needed when she thought the donation would slide through under the radar without the need for a tiebreaker vote from her!

Additionally, road issues seem to be another area of personal interest with Mayor Anderson making numerous trips to Raleigh and NCDOT (North Carolina Dept. of Transportation) requesting a left turn lane from Providence Rd. onto her property, and subsequently being denied each time since it was obviously a personal request and not a town request according to NCDOT officials! Also, it would have prolonged the widening and completion of Providence Rd. even further, while impeding the flow of traffic.

Now, Mayor Anderson is promoting another self serving road project presumably one that connects Matthews-Weddington Rd. with Providence Rd. apparently without approval or plan from the town, NCDOT or MUMPO. And, town officials are considering loaning NCDOT almost $1,000,000 of Weddington taxpayer dollars to accomplish this unapproved boondoggle project.

Mayor Anderson and Councilman Gilmartin were the same two individuals who supported the private wastewater treatment plant last year before the public hearings were even held. These were the same two elected officials who didn’t have a clue that their public support for the private wastewater treatment plant violated the Town of Weddington’s own Land Use Plan, and the county’s water and sewer Master Plan for the future.

The Weddington Santa Claus Fund is in high gear, and several town officials obviously have trouble distinguishing between their elected duties, and those of an athletic association or booster club official.

The apparent self serving pattern and confusion of several town officials is the difference between “Public Service & Self Service”, with total understanding of the latter! Additionally, please spare the town more expense with meaningless surveys that are summarily ignored, and don’t make a “hoot in Halifax”!

Betrayal of the Public Trust, and too many self serving projects are two things currently in abundance in Weddington. And, still no library!

Regards,
Hughie Sexton
Former County Commissioner
and Weddington Councilman

Sep 242008
 

The New Plan for the Woods

p
ublished in the Enquirer Journal today was a story quoting IB Development partner Philipp Walton as saying that he wants to “move some dirt in the coming months, starting some roads for the Woods, and then perhaps prepping homes with a form of septic tanks.”

Prior to requesting a pump station from Union County or the recent conditional use permit for a sewer plant from Weddington, IB Development had received a preliminary plat for septic use from the town.

During the conditional use hearing, representatives from IB Development testified that a septic tank option was not feasible, if there investment goals were to be met. Meaning that density is more profitable, as would be the difference between 204 lots on a sewer solution versus 126 lots or less on septic.

Many observers noted during the conditional use permit public hearing testimony of one IB Development contracted engineers, who stated that the town of Weddington knew full well, that when the developer asked for septic in their first sub-division application, they had no intention of actually doing septic. This visibly raised the ire of at least one council member and may have changed his vote.

It will be interesting to see whether or not the developer will move toward a gravity sewer solution advocated by the Weddington Council and surrounding neighbors.