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The Brunswick beacon. (Shallotte, N.C.) 19??-current, July 21, 1994, Page PAGE 2-A, Image 2

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County Asks Judge For Immunity From Pearly Vereen Lawsuit BY ERIC CARLSON Insurance company lawyers defending Brunswick County against former Commissioner Pearly Vereen's [political discrimination lawsuit on Monday asked a su perior court judge to dismiss the action, saying the board members who eliminated his county job cannot be sued for doing so. But Vereen's attorney Sheila McLamb argued that North Carolina courts have never granted county com missioners "legislative immunity" in such personnel cas es. She cautioned Judge Jack Thompson that he would he setting an important precedent by agreeing to apply the doctrine in this case. "You may be setting the public policy in North Carolina for the principle of legislative immunity." Mcl.amb told the judge. "That is not something to be taken lightly." After accepting a thick pile of supporting documents and listening to both sides argue over the county's mo tion for dismissal. Judge Thompson said it would "more than likely be a week" before he makes his decision. Vereen 's lawsuit claims his job in the county water department was written out of the 1991-92 budget by three Republican commissioners because Vereen is a Democrat who was within 41 days of qualifying for re tirement benefits. The suit requests a court order forcing the county to immediately re-hire Vereen and seeks a jury trial on whether he should be awarded more than $68,000 in back pay along with benefits, actual damages in excess of Si 0,000, punitive damages and legal costs. In arguing for dismissal of the lawsuit Monday, attor ney Reginald Gillespie of Durham relied heavily on a federal judge's recent decision to grant the Brunswick County Commissioners immunity from a similar suit filed by former Clerk to the Board Regina .Alexander, whose salary was eliminated in the same budget that deleted Vereen's position and 13 others from the county payroll. Commissioners at the time said the cuts were made as a "reduction in force" to help balance the budget. Alexander alleged that the Republican board got rid of her because she is black and a Democrat. In throwing out the Alexander suit last month, U.S. District Judge James C. Fox said a county board's draft ing of an annual budget was "uniquely legislative in na ture" and called it a discretionary action that falls "squarely within the political decision making authority" of the board. "Legislators must be protected from the burdens of subjecting their discretionary decision making authority to the serotinous eye of the court," Fox wrote. "It is this separation of powers that the doctrine of legislative im munity seeks to preserve." Gillespie used Fox's reasoning to insist that the Constitutional "separation of powers" prevents the com missioners ? a legislative body ? from being called on to testify in a lawsuit ? a court action ? about their reasons for eliminating positions. In rebuttal. McLamb noted that Fox did not dismiss Alexander's state claims, allowing her to re-file the law suit in state courts two weeks later. Lawyers on both sides of the Vcreen case admitted thai the legal doctrine of legislative immunity has never been applied to county commissioners in North Carolina. But despite the l*ck of case law on the subject, Gillespie argued that commissioners would be unable to make decisions about the size and structure of county government if they had to worry about being sued for every personnel decision. He callcd legislative immunity "a principal that goes to the very foundation of our gov ernment. back to the colonies." McLamb argued that under its personnel policy, the county had an employment contract with Vercen and vi olated the agreement when it failed to follow proper pro cedures in firing him. The county insists that Vereen was not fired and that his job was eliminated as a legally per missible reduction in force. Vereen was hired Aug. 1 1, 1986, as "assistant director of operational services," a position created by a Democrat-dominated board after he declined to seek re election to his county commissioners seat. The position has not been re- funded since its elimination. H/vfr Won+hnr Tn C Antini 10 ? ? w ? t t ? ? W ? ? ? ? a W V Temperatures arc expected to be hotter than normal for the next week, with the forecast calling for nightly lows in the mid 70s and daily highs in the lower 90s. "Hot and humid." Shallotte Point amateur meteorologist Jackson Canady said Tuesday, adding that he expects about one inch of rainfall over the next seven days. For the period July 12-18, Canady did not measure any rain. "On my rain gauge I had no rainfall, although I know other parts of the county did get some." he said. The daily average high during the period was 93 degrees and the av erage nightly low was 76 degrees for a daily average of 84 degrees, which is about 4 degrees above normal. Canady recorded a maximum high temperature of 96 degrees on July 17 and a minimum low of 74 degrees on the 16th. Liquor Store Proposal Divides Ash Residents (Continued From Page 1-A) board's plans for a store in Ash \Mthin the last couple weeks. Commissioner Rabon said he didn't know about the proposal until he was contacted by a newspaper re porter two weeks ago. Smith said if a county ABC store isn't built in Ash. the community will incorporate and build a store of its own. "The end result if this con tinues as such is we will incorpo rate." he said. On (he outside looking in are Shallotte officials, who fear further cuts in revenues generated by the town liquor store in a new county store is opened in Ash. Town aldermen passed a resolu tion last month opposing any new county ABC stores in the Shallotte area, including Ash. Since the county opened its first ABC store near Holdcn Beach four years ago. the amount of money Shallotte receives from its ABC store each year has dropped more than 60 percent. In the five years prior to the open ing of the Holdcn Beach Road store, Shallotte received an average of $64,359 in annual ABC store rev enues. The town has received $24,000 cach of tiit la.M uuee years ana offi cials anticipate only S20.000 this fis cal year. "If they open that store in Ash and it impacts us as much as the one at Holden Beach did, we might as well close our store," Mayor Sarah Tripp said recently. Pergerson Is Democrats' Nominee For School Board Brunswick County Democrat* chose Bryant Pergerson of Boiling Spring Lakes last Thursday as their new candidate for the District 4 seat on the Brunswick County Board of Education. An emergency preparedness specialist at CP&L's Brunswick Nuclear Plant, Pergerson ran for the seat is 1992. but lost the Democratic primary vote to incumbent Donna Baxter; who then won re-election to a second term. In balloting Thursday, he received ? substantial majority of the votes cast by Democratic precinct leaden. Dot Worth of Ash, a former school board member, was the other contender for the nomination. Pergerson said he is active with kids through volunteer tutoring, Scout work and participation in youth sports, was -flattered** by party leadens* 80 to 6 vote last week, and hopes to do something good *Tor the kids" if elected. Parent involvement is a top priority for him, be said. "Most parents would like to get involved but don't know bow. As busy as things are to day. most of the time they don't realize their child has a problem until it's a real problem.'* He'd like to see the school system promote TV-free Tuesdays and Friday family nights. On Tuesdays, instead of watching television, par ents would help children with homework and find out first-hand bow they're doing. On Fridays, parents would plan wholesome activities with their children, offering a positive role model to them. Baxter, presently chairman of the board, began seeking her third term on the board this spring, but withdrew after the primary, saying she was no longer effective in leading the school board. Baxter was criticized for failure to improve the school board's rocky relationship with county commissioners. A candidate who died too late for his name to be re moved from the ballot collected a substantial number of votes in the Democratic primary. Pergerson will face Republican nominee Pat Purvis Brown of Ash in the Nov. 8 election. Brown did not have a primary contest. 'Hero' To Be Recognized For Aiding Abuse Victim (Continued From Page 1-A) she was treated and released. As is lo often the case, charges against the assailant were dropped after the victim refused to testify against him in court Deputy Lt. Carl Pearson said Tuesday. He was one of many officers who praised Poulk's efforts. "His performance was exem plary," Pearson said. "It's not too of ten that we encounter people like him who are willing to go out on a limb for a perfect stranger. It's nice to sec a citizen get recognized for doing something good." Poulk did not seem surprised to hear that the woman's assailant went unpunished. A happily married fa ther of twoaoofc, he said he has nev er come in contact with domestic vi olence before. "I hope I never do," he said. "I hated to see what happened in the Simpson case, how things like this can escalate so quickly. Unless he gets some help, it could easily hap pen again. I'm afraid it probably win Clarification A June 30 story on the county's 1994-95 budget reported that a 10 cent increase in county water rates was 'due largely to higher raw-wa ter costs charged to the county by the Ixiwer Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority." Although a document furnished by the LCFWSA included a chart listing the "proportion of county rate increase attributable to the authori ty's water rate" as 10 cents, the final rate increase approved by the au thority was three cents Island Owners Seek 'Compromise' On Building (Continued From Page 1-A) signed to conserve wetlands and other fragile areas while still allow ing the property owner what the (own considered reasonable use of the property as required by law. It agreed to allow one six-bed room, single-family home per acre, and allowed the possibility of a community ccnter. boat dock and recreational facilities with a special permit from the town's board of ad justment. Councilwoman Julia Thomas ob jected to Ryder's past comparisons of zoning of Bird Island and the is land of Sunset Beach, "because they are so different." she said. She also raised concerns about the project's impact on the town's existing traffic problems, especially if evacuation of the islands was necessary because of a storm. With the only access a series of bridges and causeway between Bird Island and 40th Street, the only evacuation route for Bird Island oc cupants would be across another barrier island that already requires significant lead time to get people off the island safely. In developing its current zoning for Bird Island, she said, the town "worked hard to ensure at least the owner's minimum rights" to use of the land and was concerned as it saw Knee's proposal change from a 15 home "family compound" to a larg er, more commercial development. The proposals presented Tuesday by Ryder will be formally submitted to the planning board, which will re view them and make a recommenda tion to the town council At that "You couldn't devise a project that could be more heavily regulated unless you wrote low level radioactive waste disposal into it. " ? Rees Poag point, regardless of the planning board's recommendation, the peti tioners will have an opportunity for a public hearing on their rezoning request. "I think this is fair and allows rea sonable use of the property," said Ryder. "We've moved toward the middle now, and we really want to finalize this." The proposal backs away from previous proposals. Ryder specifically proposed: ? reducing minimum lot size from the existing one acre with SO percent uplands to one-half acre with 12.00 square feet (55 percent) uplands. ? allowing a maximum of eight bedrooms rather than six bedrooms per unit, assuming permits can be obtained; ? limiting the front yard setback for oceanfront properties to 25 feet inland of the 60-foot CAM A setback line established by the N.C. Office of Coastal Management instead of 65 feet. Ryder said a lot of the high, buildable lands on the island are "near the water's edge"? ? establishing a density cap of two dwelling units per acre of net buildable acreage, instead of one unit per acre. If the town chooses not to change the front yard setback, Ryder said the result would be the loss of seven to eight occanfront lots "at an im pact of several million dollars". Even if lot sizes were reduced as proposed, said Ryder, developers would still have available 1.3 times the septic system fields needed even "at a very conservative loading rate". The project is also being designed to have "zero net impact" on wet lands, according to Ryder, and to have on-site stormwater contain ment, even on the bridges. Price's consultants are about to begin what Ryder termed "the ardu ous task" of preparing an environ mental impact statement required by both the U.S. Coast Guard and the N.C. Office of Coastal Management. It will study not just the immediate impact of proposed 1,800-feet and 440-fcet bridges, but the overall pri mary and secondary impacts of the entire development of bridges, causeway and subdivision. The agencies want to see prelimi nary .subdivision plans, an environ mental assessment and endangered species inventory; a study of Mad Inlet's migration history; impacts on traffic, socio-economic effects and visual quality; as well as considera tion of alternative site(s), and addi tional surveying work to more clear ly define wetlands areas. Poag. who at one time worked with the state's coastal management program, told council, half-serious ly, "You couldn't devise a project that could be more heavily regulated (by the local, state and federal gov ernments) unless you wrote low-lev el radioactive waste disposal into it." As owner Price continues efforts to obtain the required Coast Guard and CAM A permits for the bridge and island development, the Bird Island Preservation Society is con tinuing its efforts to educate the pub lic and raise money for the possible public acquisition and preservation of Bird Island in its natural state. State Rep. David Redwine said Monday that while the General Assembly did not set aside a re quested $ 1 million in reserve toward that end, it did leave a window open. Typically if a funding request isn't considered during a budget ses sion, that item is not eligible if funds that could be used for that purpose come available at some point during the budget period. The General Assembly exempted the Bird Island funding bill from that limit in case its status changes during the year, money becomes available and the owner decides to make the island available for purchase. Zoning Scheme Needs Review, Board Says (Continued From Page 1-A) Vereen also said he has received nu merous complaints about the law. He has been a consistent opponent of the ordinance since its adoption in 1992. "There's been more confusion about this than anything else in the county," Vereen said. "It's almost like they set out to decide (zoning designations) without even looking at what's there. I was never in favor of zoning to begin with. It's not one of my things." Jones announced his resignation from the planning board immediate ly after the commissioners voted unanimously to re-examine zoning. He was a member of the planning board when the law was drafted and sat on the board of commissioners when zoning was adopted. He refused to comment further on his reasons for leaving the planning board. "Are you sure about this?" War ren asked Jones after the announce ment. "I certainly am," Jones replied. "I think somebody else ought to have some of the fun." Zoning Controversy Before the planning board began work on the zoning ordinance, its meetings were usually brief and largely uneventful. That quickly changed as the group began trying lo iron out problems in the draft ordi nance. Discussions of the proposed law often became heated. One meet ing nearly ended in a fist fight as a zoning opponent openly challenged a former planning board member. Since the law's adoption, the board has found itself swamped with requests for minor zoning changes and often attacked by citizens groups opposed to large, controver sial zoning designations. Last fall, the planning board found itself cast as (he enemy in (he fight to prohibit Martin Marietta Aggregates from opening a lime stone quarry in an industrial zone designated for such usage. A public hearing on a proposal to re-zone the area had to be adjourned due to heckling from unruly protesters. Sheriff's deputies were assigned (o keep order at subsequent meetings. Last spring. Planning Director John Harvey, architect of the zoning ordinance, was replaced by former Zoning Administrator Wade Home. Recent planning board meetings "I think somebody else ought to have some of the fun, " ? Commissioner Jerry Jones have been less controversial. But the agendas have swelled significantly with formal requests for re-zoning. By law, each zoning change must be considered at a public hearing be fore the planning board and another in front of the commissioners. Home said Tuesday he was some what surprised by the commission ers complaints about the implemen tation of zoning. "It's my understanding that's what we've been doing all along," Home said. The process of modifying the or dinance will be time-consuming and is likely to raise at least minor con troversies for many years to come. Home said. "New Hanover County has had zoning in place for 10 years and I guarantee they hear four or five re quests for changes at every one of their meetings," he said. "If we try to reach a point where we never have re-zonings, that will never be possible. It's got to be flexible. As the county changes, the zoning has to change with it." He noted that the planning depart ment has considered more than 60 map amendments and passed them THE BRtMSMflOC#?KON Established Nov. 1, 1962 Telephone 754-6890 Published Every Thursday At 4709 Main Street Shallotte, N.C. 28459 SUBSCRIPTION RATES IN BRUNSWICK COUNTY One Year $10.36 Six Months $5.55 ELSEWHERE IN NORTH CAROLINA One Year $14.86 Six Months $7.90 ELSEWHERE IN U.SJV. One Year $15.95 Six Months $8.35 Second class postage paid at Shallotte. N.C. 28459. USPS 777 780. Postmaster, send address changes to: P.O. Box 2558, Shallotte, N.C. 28459-2558 on the planning board for approval in the past four months. He said the planning staff has also handled nu merous "technical corrections" that were identified and sent through the hearing process without residents of the affected areas having to apply for re-zoning. Planning Board Chairman John Thompson also said he was sur prised to hear the criticism and in sisted that his board has been putting in long hour* listening to the pub lic's feelings about the law. He said modification of the zoning map and ordinance was an ongoing process. "I'm not sure there's that much left to do anymore. The number of re-zoning requests has been gradual ly decreasing," he said "Consid ering there were 90,000 parcels of land zoned for the first time at one fell swoop, I'd say we've done pret ty well." Thompson noted that each plan ning board member puts in "an aver age of 12 hours a month preparing for and attending meetings "That's a lot to ask of people who work full time jobs and volunteer their time afterwards,'' he said. Thompson said he was surprised to team of Jones' resignation, call ing him a "very important member of the planning board" who was ex tremely understanding of people's problems. Home echoed Thompson's praise for Jones's efforts, saying he was "surprised and disappointed" to hear the news. "He was the voice of the people," Home said. "In his line of work, Jerry Jones talks with a lot of differ ent folks every day. He deals with builders and developers and building inspectors and average citizens. He brought a lot of their concerns to the table. I hope he changes his mind." HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE BRUNSHKK'A'RKON POST OFFICE BOX 2S58 SHALLOTTE. NORTH CAROLINA 28459 r NOTICE Reliable or consistent delivery cannot be guaranteed since this newspaper must rely on the U S Postal Service for delivery IVe can only guarantee that your newspaper will be submitted to the post office m Shallotte on Wednesday of the week of publication, m tune for dispatch to out-of-town addr esses that day ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION RATES BY MAIL: Sf. Cttowi In Brunswick County (_)6.30 _j5.30 N.C. Sales Tax 38 32 Postage Charge 3.68 3.68 TOTAL iom 9.30 Elsewhere in North Caroline ?6.30 J5.30 N.C. Sales Tax 38 .32 Postage Charge 8.18 8 18 TOTAL 14,90 13.80 J5 30 Outside North Carolina ;_J6.30 ? Postage Charge _<L?5 9 BB TOTAL 15,95 14.96 Complete And Return To Above Address Name Address City. State Zip

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