At times, it’s worth looking back to reflect on what has occurred, and it is especially useful when we look at our local government processes. Our representatives almost always have good intentions, but often fall into the auto-pilot mode of accepting the easiest explanation, referencing it’s always been this way.
One example worth noting, for more than a decade Village Of Denver (VoD) parents had been repeatedly misinformed by local and state authorities that school buses were prohibited from picking children up inside VoD. The reason given was that school buses can only be routed on state-maintained roads, and roads in VoD had not yet been turned over by the developer to NCDOT for state maintenance. The result was that buses used to be restricted to stopping only at Natalie Commons Drive and Woods Lane, the exterior of VoD, which required some VoD children to walk almost a mile to their school bus stop.
This assumption unfortunately was never challenged by commissioners, and was used to the advantage of the developer. The developer presented a VoD expansion proposal, which has been going on for more than 20 years, and as an enticement indicated he offered to expedite the transition of the roads to NCDOT to allow bus access, as well as other items including a second clubhouse. He successfully split the neighborhood to attempt to influence the commissioners decision.
As president of the East Lincoln Betterment Association (ELBA), I spoke at the commission public hearing as planned against the expansion, but after learning about the developer incentives and busing situation, expanded my comments, challenging commissioners that someone needed to address the busing issue that had been allowed to go on for over a decade with continuous expansions of VoD, which made no sense.
All of the developer incentives were simply a manipulation of the situation. All the commissioners needed to do was consider the developer’s request to build 100 new homes as a stand-alone zoning request on its merits, and work to resolve the busing issue.
Instead, the Lincoln County commissioners unanimously approved the VoD developer’s request to build 100 new homes in Meadows of Denver, a new subdivision adjacent to VoD, to include 161 homes already approved and unbuilt in VoD. The developer had convinced VoD residents and commissioners that this was the best and fastest way to ensure the new and safer school bus route.
Consequences of decision will: 1) definitely be additional traffic on an already crowded Business 16; 2) likely create heavy traffic through VoD between Business 16 and Optimist Club once the new development is complete; and 3) the developer gets to build yet another 100 new homes and is relieved of remedying an over-crowded recreation area in the original VoD.
So for the rest of the story, Patty Korn, a long standing ELBA member, successfully worked with Lincoln County Schools (LCS) Transportation Department and LCS Chief Operations Officer to rapidly provide school bus service into the interior of VoD neighborhood in time for the 2023 school year.
An ELBA volunteer researched NC General Statute 115C-246 (b) which states, “Unless road or other conditions make it inadvisable, public school buses shall be routed on state-maintained highways, municipal streets, or other streets with publicly dedicated right-of-way;” and, “The local board of education shall not be responsible for damage to the roadway.” ELBA volunteers researched and provided zoning documentation which showed that the streets in the VoD are a publicly dedicated right-of-way.
The School Board attorney agreed with ELBA’s research. LCS responded positively with this “new” information. Buses are now rolling into and through VoD, and it was done quickly and without any expansion dependency from the developer.
While we are pleased that ELBA was able to lead the resolution of the issue, the real question is where were all the other officials and our local government processes to allow this situation to go on for over a decade. To make matters worse, then allow a developer to manipulate the situation for his gain. We hope everyone realizes the benefit of participating in the local government processes to ensure your representatives are actually delivering on their responsibilities.
ELBA encourages East Lincoln residents to join ELBA so that we can work together for the betterment of the East Lincoln community. ELBA’s website is elbadenvernc.net.
Greg Smith is president of the East Lincoln Betterment Association. This is a part of a regular Citizen feature providing a voice for regional organizations.