While the county extended a grace period for appealing initial zoning designations, with fees normally applied to changes in zoning waived; 215 property owners in the area requested that the community be rezoned R-1. A petition was circulated showing everybody was onboard, and county leadership approved the change. After all, allowable densities in Weaverville’s R-2, which are formulaic, fell between those of Buncombe’s R-1 (8 units per acre)and R-2 (12 units per acre).
That was in March, when the Landgrovers were vacationing in Florida. The county sent certified notices to all affected parties, but the Landgrovers’ envelope was held by the post office and eventually returned to sender. Neighbors who spoke during the public hearing sharply criticized the Landgrovers for not arranging to have their mail forwarded and not staying in touch with the community during their vacation. Most incriminating was the fact that the Landgrovers’ son had been staying at their house, and he did not read the zoning notice posted on the wooded lot at the other end of the road.
Neighbors who spoke against the rezoning were concerned the Landgrovers were going to take advantage of the full number of units the R-2 zoning would allow. The Landgrovers argued this was not the case, but they only wanted to hold on to their property rights for their posterity. Fearing a large development, many neighbors spoke of the treacherous traffic conditions extant and argued the roads could not support one more car, let alone 1100. Such arguments overlooked the ability of the Landgrovers to add half that many units and parking spaces with the current R-1 zoning.
Most tellingly, several stressed community rights and democracy. Sure, they said, the Landgrovers had property rights, but community rights and the wishes of the majority trumped that. The whole room seemed possessed with a demon that prevented anybody from respecting the country’s founding documents.
This country was based on the idea that man was endowed by his Creator with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Property rights were implicit. How could somebody pursue happiness if every time he turned around somebody was stealing his guitar or paving over or burning down his house? Original intent traditions have it that the founders defined rights as things a person can do without coercing anybody else to participate. It stands to reason a Creator could bestow these rights on a person, but since another tenet in the founding documents is freedom of assembly, it is difficult to see how a Creator would preordain the groups each person would join so he could endow those associations with rights. Exposed, community rights are nothing more than a rationale invoked for exerting control over others.
As for the democracy part, the founding documents established a Constitutional Republic to make sure each free spirit could follow his own bliss, his own muse, his own conscience without being made to conform to something like a state church. The founders tried to prevent tyranny from raising its ugly head on this soil forevermore; tyranny of the majority included.
The sad fact is we are now in a country of community rights and democracy because that’s what kids graduating from public schools and colleges learn. Then, they elect champions of community rights to rule and judge and dip a toe in the footsteps of Leon Trotsky. Fifty years ago, the notion of enforcing community rights on American soil would be unthinkable, but its infiltration of modern thought may be seen with a simple Google.
Back to the story, the Landgrovers and one resident, Ann Bollinger, had a difference of opinion about who signed whom up for the zoning change. Truempy indicated staff felt the available evidence was in favor of the Landgrover’s side of the story, that they had not received notification. What’s more, after the county had sent out the notices, and after the commissioners approved rezoning the swath of land R-1, a technicality was uncovered.
Brenda Landgrover said it was not a technicality, but a provision inserted in the law expressly to protect people like her from situations like the one at-hand. The overlooked clause required additional noticing when land was to be rezoned by a party other than the owner. The county had fallen short of this requirement, assuming at the time that the Landgrovers had been all-in.
Most commissioners who spoke indicated they would not have voted as they did had they known the Landgrovers were not supportive of the change. Mike Fryar had a long turn at the mic. He asked how much the brouhaha had cost the county. To date, $7947 had been spent. He told how neighbors had moved into his viewshed in Fairview. He adjusted, accommodated, and put up a fence. If the community wanted to keep the views, he suggested they take up a collection to make the Landgrovers an offer to put the land in a conservancy. “You’re asking us to tell people what to do with their property,” he told the neighbors.
Joe Belcher wanted people to realize that the commissioners had no jurisdiction over roads. The county neither owns nor maintains them. Complaints about traffic should be referred to the NC DOT, which conducts traffic assessments and can make improvements.
Chair David Gantt argued the law was clear, and when the law isn’t followed, the result is called chaos. There had been an error in the noticing, and so the Landgrovers had a right to revert their zoning. “We’re gonna put him back where he was before this happened,” said Gantt. “It could be you, next.”
It wouldn’t be a commissioners’ meeting without Ellen Frost taking a potshot at the Republican-led state legislature. And this she did, blaming Raleigh for dissolving the ETJ’s in the first place. Only Brownie Newman voted against the measure.