[Photo: Tex Deaton addresses the City Council. Ken MacDonald photo.]
By Ken MacDonald • Publisher • Raeford City Council gave its unanimous approval to preliminary plans for a nearly 200-lot subdivision off Palmer Street behind West Hoke Middle School. At its regular monthly meeting Monday night, the board heard a handful of citizens who live in the area speak in a public hearing, then voted to give “Raeford Commons” the go-ahead.
The residents who spoke said they are worried the development, which permits up to 191 lots, will send water to their low-lying land, bringing more flooding that already necessitates pumping in extreme weather.
The first speaker, James Locklear, said he’s also worried pollution from fertilizer and lawn chemicals will pool in his pond. “My question to you is—and I‘m gong to be blunt with this—who do I sue if that gets in my pond?”
He said he’s just trying to protect his property. “I come from a big family and nothing, absolutely nothing was given to me. I earned every bit of it. I moved from Robeson County 10 years ago…bought a nice place over here…I maintain it well, I keep it up… and I want to keep it that way.”
Tex Deaton agreed. “It’s not our agenda whatsoever to keep anybody away,” he said. But rather that our property that we have worked hard to establish and to try to be a good neighbor to the community, and a presentable addition to the community … we are concerned about this water.
When all these houses are built, and you’ve got the roofs there, which normally would have been places for absorption of this rain, now there’s not going to be any absorption from the concrete, from the house roofs and the sidewalks.”
Each speaker was sworn in by City Attorney William Fields. “Do you affirm to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, this being your solemn affirmation?” he asked Deaton.
“Absolutely,” Deaton said. “I wouldn’t want to spend eternity in hell for lying or misrepresentation.”
The developers also spoke, saying they want to accommodate the residents of the area. They’ve agreed to build a privacy fence to reduce foot traffic, for example. They said they are willing to meet with residents and an engineer they’ve hired, and walk the property to see concerns. They produced a map showing drainage patterns actually send water to their own land, not away from it.
“We feel this is an opportunity for us and the town of Raeford as well,” said Mark Lyzkowski.
“We absolutely care about what the citizens are presenting to you tonight.”
He assured the board they would comply with state standards. “We can help solve the huge thunderstorm that comes in …but I just wanted to be clear… to come in here and promise the world…we’re not trying to do that because we can’t control mother nature and when she comes in here and dumps 10 inches of rain in one event, that’s going to harm everybody. So I don’t want these nice folks to come down later to you guys, when they see you on the street, and say, ‘see I told you so.’ We’re going to do the best we can, we’re going to work with our neighbors, and go above state standards if it’s at all possible and financially possible. We can’t solve the world’s problems, but we’ll do the best we can.”
There are still hurdles for the developers to clear, including a state review. Lyzkowski said the project will bring $40 million to the tax base for Raeford and will include homes, likely to cost $190,000 to $210,000.
In its consent agenda, City Council approved last year’s audit. The report found no serious “material” problems, but noted a weakness in the segregation of duties that help prevent transactions from being mishandled. It’s a recurring criticism that the City attributes to limited staff.
Finance Officer Scott Edwards recounted a few highlights of the City’s financial state, including that its fund balance is nearly twice what is required.
Dumpster pickup may go private
City Manager Dennis Baxley said a change in staff is prompting a look at possibly contracting with a private company for commercial dumpster pick-up. The City, he said, would most likely continue billing customers, but hire a company to actually empty the dumpsters.