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Mysterious Complications Trump Property Rights


But then, in March, the designation changed when the commissioners approved a mass downzoning of 215 properties from R-2 to R-1. The change honored the petition of a number of residents, among whom the Landgrovers did not count themselves. John alleged he was out of town and did not receive any official notices about the action; he further did not want the change. The R-2 designation would allow the Landgrovers to build another house without subdividing their property. A public hearing had been scheduled to approve reverting the property, but neighbors were jockeying to have consideration tabled.

Unfortunately, the decision of how to justly resolve the problem followed the commissioners’ customary 4-3 vote along party lines. Republicans leaned toward supporting the property owners’ rights to self-determination. Mike Fryar reasoned there had been an oversight somewhere in the notification process. The land had been rezoned without knowledge of the owners’ objections. Now that the objections were known, reverting the zoning should be a simple matter. Joe Belcher asked if the property could be changed to R-2 for the duration of any delays introduced by tabling the scheduled hearing, but County Attorney Robert Deutsch said he did not think so.

Ellen Frost, Brownie Newman, and Chair David Gantt argued there were too many unresolved questions for a quick fix. Newman explained concerns pertained to a number of “moving parts” in the interpretation of “procedural requirements.” Gantt spoke of new information coming in that day. He did not want somebody coming back and suing the county for oversight of some technicality. Fryar asked what that new information might be, as he had spoken with Gantt about the matter after lunch, when nobody had mentioned any new information. At that, Gantt said he could get into an explanation but instead quickly called the question, and the hearing was postponed.

In Other Matters –

A public hearing solicited input on the gifting of $37,418 in cash to Tyco Electronics. The announcement, published in the local daily, said the purpose was “to prompt the expansion of TE’s current facility in Buncombe County through its investment of $1,580,000 in new construction improvements, machinery, and equipment and its promise to bring forty new jobs to the county paying an annal minimum average of $41,197 excluding benefits.” The deal had already been sealed; public comment was but an exercise in futility.

Tyco is a Swiss company with US headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey. The Fairview plant has been operating for almost seventy years, albeit formerly under the names of CP Clare and CII. Tyco’s web page describes the corporation as, “a $10+ billion company [with] more than 57,000 employees in 900 locations in nearly 50 countries serving the world’s most demanding environments, including banking and financial services, oil and gas, marine, government, healthcare, retail, home security, transportation and commercial, and industrial.”

Assistant County Manager Jon Creighton had the honors of presenting the colorful economic multiplier graphs. The taxpayers’ measly $37,418 contribution would result in the net payrolling of 40 jobs at a total of $1,467,850. The contribution would indirectly create another 17.2 jobs paying a total of $823,153, induce another 15.1 totaling $559,233, and, most importantly, generate $210,708 in tax revenue. More astonishing, the one-time investment would cause these returns to repeat year after year for the life of Tyco. Or so he said. Since trickle-down economics is out-of-vogue, Creighton could only say the multipliers had “trickle-through” powers.

Whereas the grant was to “prompt” expansion, plant manager Stephen Turpin said Tyco had already exceeded targets, with 74 new hires instead of 40 and approximately $2.5 million invested in capital improvements instead of $1.6 million. Revenues generated with this but-for investment had, before its disbursement, approximated $30 million. Turpin also stressed the generosity of the corporation in “giving back to the community.”

Citizen Betty Jackson, in her three minutes allotted for public comment, could not get into GIGO, uncounted opportunity costs, double-counted returns, conflation of inputs and outputs, relative economic impacts of production and transfers, and all the rest. Instead, she asked, “Can they not expand without taxpayer dollars? And if not, maybe it’s not such a good idea to support them.”

Her comments were followed by a round of celebration behind the dais. Gantt asked Creighton to speculate about the relative merits of having an economic development incentives program. Creighton argued, “Everybody’s doing it.” He described the program as, “a game that has to be played,” and added Buncombe County was playing aggressively. Gantt shared statistics claiming the program to date has been responsible for the creation of approximately 6000 jobs and $1 billion in local investment. Following commentary from Frost about state legislators continuing to whittle away at counties’ abilities to fund corporate welfare while expanding their own, the measure passed unanimously.

Prior to the commissioners’ adoption of the county’s 2016 budget, Manager Dr. Wanda Greene shared some numbers. The county’s total budget is set at $388,502,301. General fund revenues and expenditures are set at $308,356,732. Of that, $2,869,666 has been promised in corporate welfare. Specifically, Linamar should receive $1,500,000; New Belgium, $650,000, Nypro, $66,666; Borg Warner, $385,000; and GE, $268,000. Other changes over last year’s budget include $200,000 for greenways, $100,000 for housing, and $220,147 for outside agencies.

Commissioner Miranda DeBruhl said the budget accomplishes a number of objectives she had advocated, including meeting core responsibilities, increasing per-student spending in all schools, reducing overhead spending, selling unused assets, and holding the line on taxes. Only Fryar voted against the budget, objecting to its subsidy of nonprofit handouts in lieu of investing in education to help citizens help themselves.

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