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As Yow read the motion, he stressed carefully the words "This is contingent upon," and he pointed out the specific conditions called for before the motion was to go into effect. He pointed out that there was no commitment firm or otherwise from any company giant or small to build a facility at the Prison Farm.
Yow asked how in the world county staff didn't know what the word "contingent" meant.
Yow said that "nowhere, from beginning to end" did the motion state that the county intends to rezone the Prison Farm property.
"It's all contingent upon," Yow said.
Yow also said that, while he and probably every other commissioner on the board wanted to see the Prison Farm land developed at some point, this was a ludicrous way to go about it.
"We don't even have a plan," Yow said. "There's no water."
"This is ass-backwards" Yow said.
He said that, if any private developer approached county planning staff with a request of this nature no plan, no water, no adequate roads, no infrastructure, no information on how to provide any of that, no impact studies, no idea what type of business might go there then they would be laughed out of the planning office the second they made their request.
"How do you expect the public and businesses to follow the rules, if this board's not going to follow the rules?" Yow asked.
Yow also said he was willing to bet that none of the other commissioners had any idea what a zoning of the type requested allowed or didn't allow.
"Do any of you know what the zoning is and what can and can't go there? Yow asked.
No one spoke up to say that they did know what the rezoning allowed and excluded.
This week, Yow said that the corporate park zoning called for isn't even the right type of zoning that the board should have requested if it had requested a rezoning. He said it made more sense to rezone the land heavy industrial since it would be more difficult and cause a greater public outcry if the board zoned the land for a corporate park, found out heavy industry wanted to go there, and then tried to rezone the property yet again to heavy industrial.
Yow told the commissioners at the Oct. 4 meeting there was no need to rush it would take a long time to get water and city infrastructure out there anyway. And he said it made sense to study the prospects and understand the situation before moving forward with a rezoning.
Winstead, who owns and operates a property development company, is highly experience in large-scale land development.
"I tend to agree with Mr. Yow," Winstead said. "It seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse. If the county is going to play developer which I'm not sure is the right thing to do then I think we need to act like a developer."
Winstead said there should be use studies and some planning before simply rushing forward with a rezoning request.
Gibson was very intense at the meeting. He wanted to know where the idea to rezone the Prison Farm property had originated.
Gibson said he was "1,000 percent" in favor of developing the Prison Farm, but he added that the county should have some sort of plan.
He said any developer would conduct a study and have a plan in place first, and he added that he didn't see the urgency of rezoning the land.
"I don't know why we have to rezone this at the next meeting of the Planning Board," Gibson said.
Gibson turned to Yow.
"Mr. Yow, you're exactly right I don't know what that zoning includes or excludes."
Perkins, who represents Gibsonville and many residents who live near the Prison Farm, also wanted to know where the idea to rezone the property had come from.
"We've gotten way ahead of ourselves," Perkins said.
Perkins said the county had no plan and he added the county would be competing with private developers at Rock Creek Center industrial park.
He also said the zoning request had come out of the blue.
"We don't have the road system there; we don't have the water," Perkins said. "Let's do a plan; let's do it right."
Cashion argued that the board should move forward with the rezoning. She said, "I look to rezoning as the first step to that plan."
Yow said after the meeting that Cashion's comment was a perfect demonstration of how highly uninformed she is about the rational process for developing property. He said it was utterly ridiculous for someone to state that, when considering developing land, the first step is to rezone it.
Other commissioners backed Fox's rezoning attempt as well. Alston, for instance, said it was "proactive instead of being reactive."
Shaw, the only Republican to vote against Yow's motion said, "We need to open this area up we need to rezone it."
Over the last two years, Shaw has come under criticism from those who say she is too closely aligned with the liberal Democrat Alston. Shaw has also stood firmly behind Fox no matter how outlandish the manager's actions. For instance, Shaw referred to Fox's secret 2010 real estate deal that could have cost the county millions if not revealed by The Rhinoceros Times as "a mistake." Shaw has also refused to join those commissioners who have attempted to fire Fox.
On the other hand, no one is surprised when Davis goes along with Alston and, at the Oct. 4 meeting, Davis called the move to rezone the Prison Farm "progressive."
After those who favored the rezoning spoke, an even more electrified Yow raised his voice to a near shouting level and he told them that they hadn't heard one word he had said. Yow said no one was saying not to develop the land, just that this was an "ass-backward" way to do it.
"Why would you go into this thing backward," Yow asked. "Why wouldn't you do what a corporate developer would do?"
He said county staff was about to go to the Planning Board in seven days, and Yow then read the Sept. 11 motion to the board once again. He said again that the board had never authorized staff to request a rezoning.
Gibson called on Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne. Gibson asked Payne who had requested the rezoning.
Payne paused for a moment and then answered, "In my opinion, you did."
Gibson clarified that Payne was claiming the Board of Commissioners authorized it.
Payne said the Sept. 11 motion called for staff "to take steps to develop a corporate park at the property."
Gibson and Yow pointed out several times that the motion clearly stated it was conditional on a giant project that brought in at least $85 million in investment and at least 400 jobs.
Gibson told the county attorney he had never asked for a rezoning.
"I didn't do that," Gibson said. "As a board, we didn't talk about that. It never entered my mind that we asked for a rezoning."
Gibson said the board had never had any discussion about it and he reiterated that he had no idea what the zoning on the table entailed. He said that, as an at-large commissioner, he represents all the county citizens, and those citizens, he said, hadn't gotten to offer any input on this rezoning request because the commissioners were never consulted....continued on page 3