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Rhino Times - 2017-03-02
Magazines / Newspapers | Government 2017-03-02 00:00:00
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    Vol. V No. 9 Greensboro, North Carolina www.rhinotimes.com Thursday, March 2, 2017 Cameron Campus: Where Are The Students? Scott D. Yost Animal Shelter Cleaning House plus Under The Hammer, Uncle Orson Reviews Everything AND MORE

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    2 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com The Weekly Hammer THE WEEKLY Hammer People and by John Hammer The News & Record released the results of a poll it conducted with High Point University that shows that 59 percent of North Carolinians said that House Bill 2, the bathroom bill, wasn’t needed. But according to testimony in the Polls are Biased February trial on the Greensboro redistricting law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, the poll conducted by the News & Record should be discounted. During the federal District Court trial held in February challenging the Greensboro redistricting law, it was repeatedly stated that a poll conducted by the Rhino Times should be discounted because the Rhino Times is a conservative publication. The Rhino Times poll concerning the redistricting of Greensboro – in the bill that was at the time before the legislature, sponsored by state Sen. Trudy Wade – showed that 44 percent of Greensboro residents supported redistricting and 38 percent opposed it. The bill sponsored by Wade, which divided Greensboro into seven districts, failed to pass the state legislature. But a subsequent bill, drawn by a conference committee that divided Greensboro into eight districts, did pass. Both bills eliminated the three at-large members of the City Council, which currently has five members elected from districts and three elected at large. I completely agree that the poll done by the Rhino Times should be discounted because of the conservative editorial leaning of the newspaper – as long as the same standard is held for polls by liberal organizations. The News & Record, for example, no longer denies that it is a leftleaning organization. If polls from the Rhino Times can’t be trusted, neither can polls done by the News & Record for the same reason – or for the opposite reason, depending on how you look at it. Polls by The Washington Post and The New York Times get big play in the national news, but both news organizations have moved even further left in the past couple of years. The editors at The New York Times admitted in print that the paper was allowing reporters to express their liberal opinions in news articles about the presidential campaign – an admission The New York Times had never previously made. So how can polls by a news organization which admits to liberal bias on its news pages be trusted? Closer to home, we have the Elon University polls. These cannot even be called left leaning – they are way out in left field. Elon is the organization that conducted a poll that, in 2012, showed only 38 percent of North Carolinians supported the marriage amendment, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman; a month later the marriage amendment passed with 61 percent in support. It’s difficult to be that far wrong with a legitimate poll. As far as the poll paid for by the Rhino Times, we hired a professional polling organization to conduct the poll and had no idea what the polling data would show. We conducted the poll because no results had been made public of any poll conducted on the Greensboro redistricting bill. We thought this might have been because those conducting other polls didn’t like the results, but we decided before the poll was conducted that regardless of the results we would publish those results. I can’t say that we were disappointed to discover that what we believed, based on our interactions with people, were born out by the poll – that far more people in Greensboro approved of the redistricting bill than had been indicated by the reports in the mainstream media. The poll was conducted according to standard polling procedures and was as legitimate and as unbiased as other polls conducted by other news organizations. No poll is completely unbiased because polls are conducted by people, and people are not unbiased. It is worth noting that it was the only poll on the redistricting bill whose results were published, but we don’t think it was the only poll conducted. The News & Record launched an all out attack on the redistricting bill and against Wade personally. Some of the comments the News & Record allowed on its website about Wade went far beyond what most reputable news organizations would allow on their websites. The claim was repeatedly made that the overwhelming majority of people in Greensboro opposed the redistricting, a claim not based on polling but on belief. The poll indicated that the people of Greensboro were split but that more were in favor of redistricting than opposed and there was no overwhelming opinion on either side of the issue except perhaps on the staff of the News & Record that was indeed overwhelmingly opposed to redistricting. One fact about the whole redistricting process that was mainly overlooked in the long debate is that the current system – five councilmembers elected from districts, three elected at large and the mayor elected at large – was passed by the Greensboro City Council, not by referendum. The four referendums for a district system in the 1960s, 1970s and in 1980 had all failed because of the (continued on page 5)

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 3

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    4 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com RHINO SHORTS by John Hammer Editor Say Yes to Education, according to what was said when it was being heavily promoted, is supposed to be working hand in hand with the Guilford County Schools to improve the education of children in Guilford County. Now, one year in, Say Yes is refusing to give the Guilford County school board or the public basic information on their operation. The selling point of Say Yes is that it purportedly gives college scholarships to Guilford County high school graduates to pay for their college education. Say Yes pays the last dollar, which means if a student receives a partial scholarship then Say Yes makes up the difference between that and the actual cost. School board member Deena Hayes-Greene asked how much money Say Yes spent on scholarships for students in the fall semester last year. This seems like a perfectly reasonable question, but she didn’t get an answer. The fact that Say Yes won’t tell the school board how it is spending all the money it raised sends up red flags all over the place. It certainly appears the executive director, Mary Vigue, was forced to resign. Now the new director won’t provide basic information on the operation to the school board. It looks like some of those in the community who made pledges that made the whole endeavor possible need to go down to Say Yes and find out what in the world is going on. I don’t know if 6th District Congressman Mark Walker was front and center on all the broadcasts of President Donald Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, but on the broadcast I watched he was. Before Trump entered the chamber Walker was right in the middle of my screen, texting, standing with his hands in his pocket talking to folks, but Hyper-Sudoku The New York Times Photo by John Hammer Roy Carroll, the publisher of this newspaper and an Eagle Scout, received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Old North State Council of the Boy Scouts of America for his contributions to scouting and the community on Tuesday at The Fieldhouse at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex. But to some of the folks there, what was more impressive than Carroll’s many accomplishments in business and the community was the fact that all three of his daughters attended the 7 a.m. breakfast. not leaving his seat. It looked like he had snagged a really good aisle seat and was easy to spot when the camera panned the audience to show all the Republicans clapping and most of the Democrats sitting on their hands. In what may be the too-little-toolate category, City Councilmember Tony Wilkins has asked the city staff to write a letter informing Trader Joe’s that they would be welcomed into the community. Trader Joe’s was reportedly interested in the Friendly Avenue and Hobbs Road location, but the rezoning for that property was so contentious that Trader Joe’s decided it didn’t want to have anything to do with Greensboro. With cities all over the country trying to recruit Trader Joe’s, why would the company want to come to a community where it wasn’t wanted? Wilkins decided it was time to try and mend that fence and a whole lot of folks who drive to Winston-Salem or Chapel Hill for their Trader Joe’s fix no doubt agree with him.

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    polls www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 5 table of CONTENTS 2 WEEKLY HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 6 ANIMAL SHELTER CLEANING HOUSE BY SCOTT D. YOST 8 CAMERON CAMPUS IS LOVELY BUT WHERE ARE THE STUDENTS? BY SCOTT D. YOST 10 COUNTY PLEASED TAXPAYERS KEEPING PITCHFORKS IN SHED BY SCOTT D. YOST 10 PROBLEM CITY COUNCIL COULD FIX BY JOHN HAMMER 14 SANCTUARY CITIES MAY GET BITTEN BY JOHN HAMMER 15 UNCLE ORSON BY ORSON SCOTT CARD 41 ASK CAROLYN BY CAROLYN WOODRUFF 51 UNDER THE HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 4 RHINO SHORTS 4 SUDOKU 10 PUZZLE ANSWERS 17 REAL ESTATE 18 NYT CROSSWORD 35 CHILDREN’S SCHEDULE 37 THE SOUND OF THE BEEP 42 NEWS OF THE WEIRD 44 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (continued from page 2) overwhelming opposition by the white leadership in Greensboro, which didn’t want to give up the control of the City Council they had with all councilmembers elected at large. The result of the citywide vote with all councilmembers running at large resulted in the majority of the council being elected from predominantly white northwest Greensboro. The compromise with the 5-3-1 system was designed to give black voters guaranteed representation on the City Council with two majorityminority districts, but to keep the majority of the City Council in northwest Greensboro, where it remains today. It was startling that one of the complaints made in court by those seeking to overturn the Greensboro redistricting law was that there were too many majority-minority districts in the eight-district plan. The eight-district plan has three majority-minority districts, while the current 5-3-1 plan has two. That is an argument I don’t think I have ever heard. The basis of the lawsuit was that under the redistricting black voters were being discriminated against and would have less say-so in City Council elections, and one way blacks were being discriminated against was that they would have more districts where a black candidate would have a better chance of getting elected. Maybe there is some legal nuance there that I am missing, but it seems like more majority-minority districts would be better for the minority community, not worse. In fact, you could argue that in Greensboro, a majority-minority district could have a majority of white voters because whites make up a minority of the population in Greensboro. Because of the lawsuit, instead of having an elected body decide on the district system for the City Council, or having the decision made by referendum, a federal judge appointed for life will make that decision. Does it make any sense for those who oppose the eight-district system – because they say the election system (continued on page 14) 19 38 39 YOST COLUMN BY SCOTT D. YOST 46 Cover: The GTCC Cameron Campus during a typical school day. Photo by Scott D. Yost PUBLISHER Roy Carroll EDITOR-IN-CHIEF John Hammer managing editor ELAINE HAMMER county editor SCOTT D. YOST contributing editor ORSON SCOTT CARD GENERAL MANAGER Joann Zollo creative director ANTHONY COUNCIL advertising consultants DONNA GOODWIN ABBY SCHMUCKER TYE SINGLETON 216 West Market Street, Greensboro NC 27401 P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro NC 27429 | (336) 763-4170 (336) 763-2585 fax | sales@rhinotimes.com | www.rhinotimes.com

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    6 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Animal Shelter Cleaning House Hardwood Laminate by Scott D. Yost The Guilford County Animal Shelter fired eight employees this week in a mass layoff of former United Animal Coalition (UAC) workers. Some of those former employees said the county had this move planned all along and said the fired shelter workers were laid off as part of an effort to clear out long-term shelter staff who had any association with the UAC and who have the ear of Guilford County commissioners and relationships with members of the Guilford County Animal Services Advisory Board. They also said administrators liked staff who did not make waves. Many volunteers who work with the shelter and those who work in the local animal rescue community were upset about firings. They said some of those fired did an excellent job and there was no reason for the move. Though county officials said repeatedly when asked about the firings at the shelter that this was a Vinyl 336-288-6643 Carpet Guilford any County hired 3 to bedrooms run the GOOD BETTER $ 1099 $ 1099 $ 1299 Call today and we’re on our way! Carpet any 3 bedrooms LOWEST PRICES any PERIOD 3 bedrooms years there, I established connections; and financing the others did too. The reason Carpet 8mm Laminate on they select fired products us with is approved that want to preserve secrecy; credit. See they store don’t for details. want people telling Solid 2 1/4” HARDWOOD $ 2 99 sq. ft.* GOOD BETTER $ 1099 *limited supply 39 ¢ sq. ft.* *limited supply $ 1099 $ 1299 Plush or Twist Carpet 99 ¢ sq. ft.* was there to look after the animals. Includes installation, pad, moving furniture, take-up and disposal! See store for details. “I was the only one who came in,” PROFESSIONAL he said. iNstAllAtioN *Take up to 7 YEARS to pay *on approved credit they say, was there a plan to silence shelter staff complaints by firing those with connections to Guilford County commissioners or members of the advisory board. The eight workers were fired on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and Wednesday, March 1. On Tuesday, five workers were told to report to a meeting with Guilford County human resources staff and those five were notified in individual meetings of their terminations. Three others were also fired at other times. All Guilford County officials contacted refused to comment on the reason for the firings, but some of those fired maintain that the county had planned to fire all the UAC workers for the past year, despite what they said was in some cases exceptional work performance. The UAC is the nonprofit that animal shelter for almost two decades before a giant animal neglect and mistreatment scandal in August 2015 Call Today and We’re On Our Way! Cannot combined with any other offer. Call today and we’re on our way! See store for details. 336-288-6643 2837 Battleground Avenue, Greensboro Mon-Fri 8am-6pm • Sat 10am-4pm www.carpetsbydirect.com BEST $ 1499 Area Rugs Carpet Tile 336-288-6643 59 ¢ sq. ft.* *limited supply INSTALLATION plUs 1YEAR INTEREST FREE SERVING NORTH & SOUTH CAROLINA SINCE 1960 Guilford County Deputy Manager Clarence Grier is the top county official assigned with overseeing the county’s animal services operations. One fired employee said that Brinkley’s signature was on the dismissal notice. Wolfgang Planz, a worker in charge of facility cleanliness, had been with the shelter 11 years before being fired Tuesday. He said he and the others did not see it coming. Planz said he was a diligent worker who cared a great deal about the animals. He said that Guilford County clearly all along wanted to keep the UAC workers on until they had a plan in place to replace them. He said that’s why the county made an administrative move one year ago that technically fired the former shelter workers and rehired them – with a one-year probationary period allowing the county to fire them without cause before that term expired. Planz said the county had ulterior motives for the firings that had nothing to do with the employees’ personnel issue and they therefore led to the county taking over control of performance, which is why, he said, could not discuss the details, they did the shelter and forming the new Animal the county had established that year say there was no nefarious plot to get Services Department now headed up probationary period. rid of all former UAC workers – nor, by Drew Brinkley. “They have very cleverly masked Includes installation, pad, moving furniture, take-up and disposal! the whole See store incident,” for details.Planz said, “and made sure they covered everything legally. It is clear that they intended from the first day to use the former staff of the UAC to get going and then fire 1year interest-free them. 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See Planz store for details. said that event exposed the **on selected Shaw products with approved credit We’ll 2837 Battleground ave • 336-288-6643 lack of an inclement weather policy www.carpetsbydirect.com at the shelter Beat It! and displayed how Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 10am-4pm Guaranteed! management had dropped the ball that day. Volunteers including the two commissioners helped feed the animals and move them to warm spots interest-free financing on select products with approved credit. See store for details. at the shelter, he said. Soon after, the shelter got an inclement weather policy. “At that time, they did not have a policy,” he said. “The county commissioners made them create one.” Planz also said that those overseeing the shelter aren’t trying to hide anything like animal cruelty or mistreatment – but that they don’t want the advisory board and the commissioners involved in the process because that can keep shelter administrators from making the decisions they want to make. “They want to operate in secrecy – they don’t want the public to look behind closed doors,” Planz said. He added that there was no job performance issue that led to his firing. He said he truly cared about the animals and started there as a volunteer before being hired. “I don’t want to sound conceited, but I was good at my job,” he said. “I worked as hard as I can work. And I thought people would see that and recognize that effort.” Planz also said the mass firing will lead to a huge hole in care for the animals. He said the animals have to have medicine and food, and the cages have to be cleaned, and they need to be taken care of in other ways as well. “This leaves a major gap,” he said. He added that it would be hard to get the animals the medical care they needed. “They fired three out of seven vet techs,” he said. The county also fired an intake worker, supervisors with roles in animal adoption and animal foster programs and others. According to Guilford County Human Resources Director John Dean, there are 29 total positions at the animal shelter and currently there are 16 vacant positions. Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad, who’s the chairman of Animal Services Advisory Board, said that there’s no truth to the fact that this is part of some subversive plan by the county to silence people or get rid of former UAC workers. “If this was the plan all along, I had no indication of it,” Conrad said. “I certainly haven’t heard about it.” He said instead that it’s simply a question of giving shelter administrators the staff they need to be successful. “In sports, the coach needs to able to put the right team together,” Conrad said. “It happens in all organizational (continued on page 50)

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 7

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    8 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Cameron Campus is Lovely But Where Are The Students? by Scott D. Yost “Empty,” “ghost town,” “sparse” – those were words used by Guilford County officials to describe the Don Cameron Campus of Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) recently. After the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and county staff held a two-day annual retreat at the Cameron Campus in early February, some county officials were buzzing about the new facility – not about how beautiful it is, which it is, or about its teaching tools, which are impressive – but instead the conversations were about how empty it was. During the retreat, the commissioners and county staff wandered the halls of the large building during breaks and they were amazed to see no classes in session and only a few people walking in the halls of the two-story, nearly 93,000-square-foot Business and Industry Building. That facility was built with the stated intention of educating the growing population in northwest Guilford County, but it appears as though it has currently got a lot of space to educate a lot more people than it does. Some county officials commented that this was particularly striking given the packed nature of GTCC’s Jamestown Campus – where an open parking space anywhere near a building is a very rare find and even walking through the halls at times can be a problem due to the throngs of people. Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips is a member of the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA), which meets at the $45 million Cameron Campus each month, and he has joked twice publicly about the large building that seems to stay mostly empty. At the Guilford County Board of Commissioners retreat in early February, when Guilford County school system officials were talking about needing space for a new vocational high school, Phillips said that perhaps the schools could just put the proposed program at the Cameron Campus. Given the lack of students in the facility that day Phillips may very well have been half-serious. “It was pretty much a ghost town all Photo by Scott D. Yost day,” Phillips said of the campus after the commissioners retreat. A couple of weeks later, when Phillips was attending a GCEDA meeting at the Cameron Campus – and there were a good number of cars in the parking lot – Phillips asked GTCC President Randy Parker, who was also at the meeting, if he had instructed many of his staff to come to Cameron Campus that morning to make the facility appear full. “We rented cars,” Parker joked back, referring to the relatively full parking lot. Parker added that his staff was also told be there “on the mark.” Phillips said that, when he was leaving the commissioners retreat one day, he did see some people coming into the building so perhaps it was used more at night, but he added that it is striking to walk through the facility in the day. He said it’s certainly an issue that many county schools are in need of repair and GTCC has a new, wonderfully built campus with lots of parking that doesn’t appear to be getting the type of use it should. “The takeaway for us, and for me, is that we have a $40 million plus wonderful educational facility that’s dramatically underused,” Phillips said. “It’s a huge investment.” County taxpayers funded the building with bond referendums voters approved in 2004 and 2008. Other commissioners who had attended the retreat had the same reaction. Commissioner Alan Branson said, “I do think that particular facility at this point is not well used.” The campus is close to Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) and Branson said he hopes that it can be used at for aviation-related vocational training, “if something were to pop at the airport.” Commissioner Justin Conrad also commented on the need to put the building to better use. “It’s a beautiful facility,” Conrad said. “I‘d like to see them figure it out. They built it right. It’s a wonderful asset.” GTCC has five campuses in Guilford County. The main one is the Jamestown Campus that dates back to the 1950s. Then there’s a downtown High Point Campus, a Greensboro Campus on East Wendover Avenue, the Cameron Campus in Colfax and a specialized Aviation Campus at PTIA. That site is, in actuality, three different areas at the airport. The airport is about five miles from the Cameron Campus. According to Parker, the Cameron Campus comes in fourth on the usage scale. He said it’s used more than GTCC’s Airport Campus, which is for highly specialized training related to the aviation industry. Parker said GTCC does get good use out of Cameron Campus even though the nature of the classes there makes its use less apparent than the use of other campuses. He said the campus will often be the site of twoor three-day continuing education classes or it will be used for night classes for adults, and he added that the traffic flow in the building isn’t the same as a typical college campus – where classes get out at the same time and therefore the halls are filled between classes. He also said there’s a large auditorium at Cameron Campus that gets good use. “We do have traditional college courses out there,” he said. “There are continuing education programs there as well.” Carla Kucinski, public information officer/interim director for GTCC, wrote in an email that the school does not have “hard data on how many people access our individual campuses.” It is possible to see how many classes are being held on each campus by checking the school’s course listings for the 2017 spring semester. The school’s course catalogue lists 957 courses held at the Jamestown Campus, 225 at the Greensboro Campus and 107 at the High Point campus and 42 at the highly specialized Aviation Campus. There are 18 listed as being held at the Cameron Campus. Most of those classes meet for about three hours a week. The auditorium at the Cameron Campus is a very nice one – and the rest of the facility as well is top quality, but clearly commissioners and others want to see the $45 million investment being put to better use. A walk around the first and second floor during the Thursday and Friday retreat at noon, while GTCC is in session, showed empty halls, locked empty rooms and a few people using a secondfloor computer lab. And at almost every meeting held out there since it opened about two-and-a-half years ago, attendees can usually take their choice of open parking spots right next to the building’s entrance and then walk to their meeting room rarely seeing anyone once inside. Unlike the Jamestown, Greensboro and High Point campuses – which have a student store/bookstore open Monday through Friday, the Cameron Campus’ store is open only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and on those days only from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5:30 p.m. The Cameron Campus is in Commissioner Hank Henning’s district, and Henning said one thing that needs to be pointed out is that the Cameron Campus project – which originally called for several more buildings on the 95 acres of land at the site – had been scaled back from the initial plans. “We should give Dr. Parker credit where credit is due,” Henning said. Henning said Parker had inherited the Cameron Campus project and (continued on next page)

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    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 9 students (continued from previous page) scaled it back considerably. Henning also said that the current Republicanled Board of Commissioners came in in late 2012 after this project was well on its way. Henning, like many other commissioners, said he’s optimistic that the relatively new campus can be put to good use once some logistical matters are worked out and as the northwest part of the county continues to grow. Many commissioners commented on what a well-built and aesthetically striking facility the building is. The lone building constructed by GTCC on the 95-acre Cameron Campus, which includes a lake, is the Business and Industry Building that opened in fall 2014. The large two-story building has classrooms, conference rooms, meeting spaces, computer labs, a “model warehouse,” a 250-seat auditorium and a library. Promotional material for the campus states, “The information technology infrastructure in this building is significant and advanced, making it a perfect fit for the high-tech computer programs offered at this site.” The campus was named for Donald W. Cameron, who ran GTCC from 1991 to 2011. Commissioner Ray Trapp said one drawback to that location in the northwest part of the county is that the campus isn’t on the public transportation grid. Trapp said that prevents a lot of people from using it. “It’s tough when you have a facility that’s not on public transportation,” Trapp said. Parker said GTCC has explored public transportation issues. Trapp said he does know the Cameron Campus is used some because he once took a real estate class out there. Trapp said his class was a morning class but he added that his teacher told him she did not like going out to Cameron Campus to teach at night because there were so few people there in the evening. Parker said that using the criteria “number of people accessing our campus facilities,” the Jamestown Campus comes in the highest. “Most of the programs are there,” he said. “The next highest is Greensboro,” Parker said of usage. “It’s served by the city bus program. A lot of traffic through that system comes through the Greensboro [bus] system to that campus.” The third most used, he said, was the High Point campus. “That campus is kind of landlocked,” he said of the difficulty of expanding there. The Cameron Campus is fourth in usage, Parker said, with the Airport Campus being the least used because of the specialized nature of the classes that train pilots, aircraft mechanics and others working or seeking jobs in the (continued on page 37) RHINO TIMES BUSINESS AND SERVICE DIRECTORY For information to advertise in our Directory call (336) 763-4170 Reach over 50,000 in our Service Directory. Reserve your space by calling (336) 763-4170 or emailing sales@rhinotimes.com

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    10 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, March 2, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com County Pleased Taxpayers Keeping Pitchforks In Sheds by Scott D. Yost The Guilford County Tax Department is breathing a big sigh of relief. That’s because the department just sent out roughly 210,000 notices of new property values to Guilford County homeowners and business owners and, in return, the department has not gotten a slew of complaints, appeals, questions or protests, nor have they seen angry mobs coming down to the tax office with pitchforks and torches. Sometimes when counties conduct their revaluations and notify property owners of the new values, there’s a lot of consternation and a large number of appeals, and the county must spend a great deal of time double checking information and reassessing property, checking out property owner claims. It can also mean very long days for the county’s Board of Equalization and Review, which is appointed to settle these types of tax disputes – and the Guilford County Board of E&R doesn’t want that because it already holds all-day meetings even when it’s not a revaluation year. So, every time the Guilford County Tax Department sends out property revaluation notices – currently that’s once every five years – tax officials hold their breath and cross their fingers. After Guilford County tax staff spent most of 2016 reassessing every piece of property in the county, the department sent out notices of the new values on Friday, Feb. 17. Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis said most property owners who live in Greensboro got their notices on Saturday, Feb. 18 and those in other parts of the county received theirs early the following week. Property owners have until March 17 to appeal the valuations, so it’s still early in the process, but this week Chavis said all indications were very good. That deadline is for an informal review process.. However, even after March 17, property owners can contest their values by filing an appeal with the Board of Equalization and Review. In any year, taxpayers have until the end of May to file an appeal with that board. Tax Department staff get an excellent idea of how well the new values are going over with property owners very soon after the bills are sent out: Since the department is seeing only a trickle of complaints, that tells staff that property owners feel the revaluations are pretty much on target. (It could also mean that tax appraisers came in low on the values. However, the Tax Department matches its values to recent property sales and those comparisons suggest the new valuations are capturing nearly 100 percent of the value of property in the county.) “It’s all been positive,” Chavis said. “I couldn’t be more pleased. Overall the phones have been relatively quiet.” He added that he believes several factors are keeping the number of complaints and questions to a minimum this time around. “For one thing, the economy is doing much better,” Chavis said. “There is more optimism out there.” Chavis said there certainly are challenges that remain for taxpayers in the current economy, but he added, “Things are headed in the right direction.” When economic circumstances are dire, he said, people naturally look for savings anywhere they can find them, and the tax bill is one place people look. If they can convince the county to lower their assessed property value, (continued on next page) Problem City Council Could Fix by John Hammer The idiocy of the Greensboro zoning ordinance regarding setbacks cannot be exaggerated. The good news is that the current Board of Adjustment realizes this is an absolutely ridiculous ordinance and grants variances to just about anyone who requests one. The bad news is that building and development is held up and made more expensive because Greensboro property owners – who are already paying the highest property tax rate in the state of any comparable city – are forced to pay more to request a variance and then go through the mind-numbing process of applying for the variance and appearing before the Board of Adjustment. I don’t have the official records going back to 1808 when Greensboro was founded, but I believe the Board of Adjustment set an all time record on Monday, Feb. 27, when it granted a front setback variance of “approximately” 148 feet. Since nobody knows the exact setback because it’s too complicated to figure, the setbacks under the new ordinance are listed as “approximately.” In this case the owners at 4823 Country Lane Road requested a variance of approximately 148 feet of a front setback of approximately 188 feet. According to sworn testimony at the Board of Adjustment meeting, if the required setback were adhered to it would put the house in the Bryan Boulevard rightof-way, making it an unbuildable lot and essentially worthless. The front setback, according to the zoning ordinance passed in 2014, is determined by measuring the front setback of the two houses on either side in the same block as the lot in question and then averaging the setback of those four houses. In this case there were only two houses in the same block and both had much deeper lots. One had a front setback of 260 feet and the other of 160 feet. If someone is building the first house on a block, then they are required to meet the 25-foot front setback – which was the residential zoning setback prior to the passage of the 2014 zoning ordinance. But if the lots have been built on, then your neighbors houses determine the setback for your lot. Later in the meeting where there was only one other house on the same block as the house at 2302 Creekwood Road. The homeowner wanted to put an addition on the front of his house, but since the other house on the block was set back 39 feet, he needed a variance to build into that required 39- foot setback. The front setback ordinance might make some sense if all the homes were on straight streets and all the lots had exactly the same dimensions, but that isn’t the way Greensboro was laid out – streets curve and lots are of all different dimensions. With the current Board of Adjustment, the setback ordinance is an unnecessary expense and an annoyance, but with previous Boards of Adjustment, which granted variances only in the most extreme circumstances, it would pose a real hardship. The Greensboro City Council could fix this problem in about five minutes – a little more if Councilmember Sharon Hightower chose to speak on it. But all the council needs to do is instruct the city attorney to research the old zoning ordinance and see if, from a legal standpoint, it needs any alterations. Then the council simply replaces the new front setback ordinance with the old one, and instead of people constantly trying to figure out what the “approximate” front setback is, the homeowner can go out measure 25 feet and know that is in compliance. It’s not like the City Council is doing anything else. It held a daylong retreat where the council hardly bothered to discuss anything and adjourned early, and the last couple of meetings have been less than two hours long. This is something the council could actually do to promote economic development, but so far there has been no indication that it plans to do anything this year other than talk about the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise (MWBE) program, and this appears to have no MWBE implications.

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