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Hope Mills commissioners hear appeal for more transparency on zoning


HOPE MILLS — It was a relatively routine night for the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners when it met Monday evening at Town Hall.

The board voted unanimously to approve everything on the agenda for the evening, including a contiguous annexation of 32.44 acres on Muscat Road and an initial zoning of 2.3 acres on Chickenfoot Road as planned commercial.

However, during the public-comment period, several residents addressed the board about issues ranging from yard flooding to difficulty finding information deemed important for the public on the town’s website.

Karen Saracen, who said she is running for commissioner in the upcoming election, told the board she was frustrated about attending a county planning board meeting to protest the rezoning of Golfview property for a hotel only to find out that the property owner had asked for the case to be withdrawn five days before the meeting.

“The public has a right to know who knew the case had been pulled and failed to notify the public,” said Saracen. “Why was the public not notified?”

Saracen’s argument was that Mayor Jackie Warner and the interim town manager knew days before the request was withdrawn and failed to notify the public.

Town Attorney Dan Hartzog Jr. addressed Saracen’s question.

“The law states the town must be notified for the hearing, but there’s not a provision in the law for changes or withdrawals,” Hartzog said, adding that developers could change their minds and often do. “The withdrawal doesn’t actually take effect until the meeting.”

Interim Town Manager Chancer McLaughlin addressed the issue before the board.

“This is one of the main reasons why I spoke to issuing another round of citizens academy, because it is very clear there is a very deep divide of basic understanding of municipal zoning regulations that governs what we do,” said McLaughlin  “Like the town attorney said, it’s not an official position until it's taken by the planning board.”

When asked if she got the answer she was looking for, Saracen said, “No. They turned it around to say it’s not our business. This town feels they’re not being transparent.”

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Hope Mills, Board of commissioners, zoning, planning board