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County policies challenged

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Why rush an unnecessary update to the comprehensive plan while at the same time delaying the real estate reassessment?

That's question one citizen wants Carroll supervisors to answer.

When most county residents wanted to talk about a proposed nuisance dog ordinance at the Dec. 7 meeting of the Carroll County Board of Supervisors, Mike Goldwasser wanted the county officials to explain the differences in their decisions on the comprehensive plan and the reassessment.

A comprehensive plan helps a locality set goals for 20 years into the future.

At a recent meeting, the supervisors voted to spend $130,000 to hire Chandler Planning and Planning Works to revise the comprehensive plan. The process would include a number of public input sessions.

A real estate assessment is meant to take market values into account when it comes to taxes paid to a locality.

Carroll supervisors voted to delay reassessment for a year, hoping the real estate markets — shaken during the recession — would stabilize again.

County officials took into consideration the impact falling real estate values would have on the tax rates in making the decision.

In Goldwasser's opinion, while speaking at the Dec. 7 meeting, the supervisors failed to heed the public during their term in office.

As one example, he cited the supervisors dismissing the recommendation of the Emergency Services Board to reinstate Roger Hawthorne's ability to run emergency calls with the Hillsville Fire Department.

(The ESB decision was distinguished by the sheer number of abstentions during the vote, which included then-Hillsville Fire Chief Mike Musser, County Administrator Gary Larrowe and county supervisors Andy Jackson and Manus McMillian.)

"I know it's hard not to be in control of everything, but I think, again, that you need to listen," Goldwasser said. "And if you're not going to accept what they recommend, you need to give a very good reason for it."

The decision to delay the assessment, Goldwasser could understand in a way. It will save the county money for a time.

But the same logic applies to the comprehensive plan, he pointed out.

Also, the comprehensive plan last got revised in 2007, and state law says the updates have to happen every five years.

That means, that the county could wait until 2012 to work on the comprehensive plan, Goldwasser said.

It doesn't make any sense to proceed, especially when you take into consideration the updates will be done without the benefit of the information that would be supplied from the next U.S. Census numbers, he added.

On top of that, county officials would be reshaping the planning document without knowing what the end result would be of the boundary adjustment between Hillsville and Carroll County.

Goldwasser called going ahead with the plan “crazy.”

"So what you're doing is, you're spending $130,000 that there's absolutely no urgency to spend," he said.

And that money will be spent in the least efficient way, as it will not take in the data from the census or the changes from the annexation.

"I would like to hear an explanation from you about why you're in such a hurry to do this and how it differs from your reasoning about the reassessment," Goldwasser concluded.

The supervisors did not respond to Goldwasser's question. Their usual policy is not to respond to questions raised during citizen's time.