|2007-10-04 Articles |
|Water Shortage Is Real Danger|
|October 04, 2007|
Once again the most important part of the Greensboro City Council meeting was an item not on the agenda – water restrictions. Next on the list was a request to continue a rezoning matter that was dealt with in a most unusual manner.
Water restrictions will increase next Tuesday, Oct. 9 to Stage IIB. This outlaws watering with a sprinkler even one day a week. Right now residents are allowed to water their lawns once a week, but under Stage IIB the only watering that is allowed is with a hose, container or drip irrigation system, and home car washing is also illegal.
Water Resources Department Director Allan Williams said that it was a little early to go to tighter restrictions based on the ordinance but he felt the mitigating circumstances required such action. Williams said that it is getting too late in the year for a hurricane or tropical storm to dump enough water on the area to fill the reservoirs and that long-range weather forecasters are now saying their will be a strong La Nina this year, which means an even drier than anticipated fall and winter.
The real danger is if the reservoirs don't fill up this winter and spring and we go into next summer with reservoirs that are less than 100 percent.
Williams said that the city had looked at running a water line down to Randleman Lake and bringing raw water up to the Mitchell Water Treatment Plant, but there were just too many obstacles.
He did say that if the winter rains come, the city plans to use the dam on the Haw River it bought several years ago to help fill the city's lakes. He said right now there just wasn't much water in the river.
The news from Williams was not good. He said stream flows were at historic lows and noted several times that this is a drought that is affecting the Southeast, not just Greensboro or just North Carolina.
When asked what the average citizen could do, Williams said, just treat water as the precious resource that it is.
Before the council got to the agenda, the council heard from attorney Derrick Allen, representing the developers and property owners in a rezoning request for property at the intersection of Lawndale Drive and Lake Jeannette Road. Allen asked for a 60-day continuance. The council policy for the past 15 years has been to grant one continuance to either side in a rezoning case as long as it was not done maliciously, which means as long as some advance notice was given. In this case advance notice was given and Allen clearly thought he was going to receive the continuance as he has in the past.
However, it is an election year and strange things are done in an election year. Councilmember Tom Phillips said that this was an obvious attempt to push the rezoning request past the election so a new City Council would hear it because Allen knew he didn't have the votes to pass it with this council. Phillips said, "this is a political move; that's all it is."
Phillips asked for the people opposing the rezoning to stand, and about 25 folks stood up, including a couple of City Council candidates who were in the audience.
Councilmember Florence Gatten, supporting Phillips, said that in the past continuances had been granted, but not when the council was going to change. She said that neighbors shouldn't have to continually come to meetings, and she asked, "when is enough enough?" The property had been before the Zoning Commission as a mixed-use development earlier in the year, and when that failed it was not appealed to the council but the developer went back to the drawing board and came up with a proposal for a single-story office development. That proposal passed the Zoning Commission when, after a long pause, District 3 City Council candidate Zack Matheny voted in favor, giving it a margin of victory.
Because it had been to the Zoning Commission twice, Phillips noted that the case had been dragging on for almost a year and it was time to do something.
Councilmember Mike Barber said the reasons for not granting the continuance were "somewhat speculative and subjective." He suggested the council grant the continuance just like it normally did.
Mayor Keith Holliday said he thought it was important for the council to be consistent and he would support a continuance.
James Bennett, representing the opposition, spoke and said that they were against the office zoning and asked for an up or down vote.
Gatten made a motion to hear the case and it passed on a 7-to-2 vote with Barber and Holliday voting against it.
Right after that, Marc Isaacson asked for a continuance for another rezoning case and was granted one just like everyone else has been for the past 15 years.
The council discussed assessments for property on South Elm-Eugene Street, where the road had been widened, forcing people to sell their front yards to the city, and then they were billed for the curb and gutter put in front of their homes. The people had a great point but no advocates on the City Council. They said they didn't want the road widened, and that the road wasn't widened for their benefit but for the benefit of the big retail developments further out and they didn't think they should have to pay for "improvements" to their property that didn't improve anything but people's ability to drive past their houses at a higher rate of speed. Holliday actually cut the mike off for one fellow who didn't like the way the city was treating him. It seems like one councilmember might have taken the side of these people who really had been mistreated by the city, but they didn't.
After the council disposed of that group it was time for a break, and Barber, who is an attorney in real life, went to work in the back room. Barber came up with a compromise to grant Allen a two-week continuance, which passed on a 7-to-2 vote with Phillips and Gatten voting against it.
Some councilmembers may have voted for it because they looked out and saw former City Councilmember and City Council candidate Robbie Perkins, who is involved in the Lawndale and Lake Jeannette rezoning. Perkins looked hopping mad. Having been on the council for 12 years, Perkins knows what a slap in the face it was for the council to vote against granting a continuance.
What the council actually accomplished by its vote and reversal was keep the 25 people from the neighborhood waiting for no reason.
Now the council will hear the matter on Oct. 16.