“F**k you, f**k your mama, and f**k your sister.”

The headline above is one I never expected to publish on this website, and I apologize to those whom it may offend, but it’s necessary. They are not my words. They are the exact words that 79-year-old, former Ramseur mayor Hampton “Happy” Spivey shouted at me from the bottom of the front steps of the municipal office after a community information meeting tonight.

Spivey followed me out of the building and waited until I was over 100 feet away before yelling at me, “Hubbard, you don’t know shit.” This is from a man who hasn’t been to a meeting since he resigned in disgrace about a decade ago, so I suspect he doesn’t know “shit” either anymore, especially at almost eighty years old.

I admit it, I yelled something equally nice back at him after that first comment, and that’s when he yelled, “Fuck you, fuck your mama, and fuck your sister!” I don’t have a sister, Mr. Spivey, so screw you right back, asshole!

My response was, “The best thing that ever happened to this town was the day you took a swing in public and got sent home.” Unfortunately, the old geezer couldn’t hear me and asked me to repeat it, so I did, at a volume level I’m pretty sure could be heard across the river.

This was the first time I ever laid eyes on Mr. Spivey in the more than eight years I’ve been a citizen of this town. In fact, you can probably hear my friend, Mr. Cheek, identify him to me in the video. It’s unfortunate that I cut the recorder off as soon as the meeting ended, but there was at least one witness. Sitting in the SUV next to where old Happy was standing when he verbally assaulted me was Mr. Benware, who sits on our planning board. There’s no way he didn’t hear what Spivey was spouting.

Anyway, the video below captured most of the meeting, and I’m sorry the sound quality is no better. If Commissioner Parrish really wanted to inform the public he would have had “his” camera running. It ought to run anytime any public meeting takes place in that room. I still say Ramseur needs to join in or help create a regional water authority, but that would take a little control away from Commissioner Parrish, and we all know that being in control of everything is his top priority.

You know, I really don’t feel up to running for a seat this year, but that old s.o.b. might make me change my mind.

Yes, Regis, that’s my final answer.

I’ve considered running for a seat on our board of commissioners off and on for many years now. I know I’d make a good board member; I do my homework and show up prepared, and I won’t go along to get along.

I also recognize that aside from those qualities, I make a terrible candidate. The list of reasons why is longer than I wish to bore you with today, but that’s the truth.

I will NOT be a candidate for any office in this town this year or any time in the foreseeable future.

Does anyone else see the problem here?

The video above is a compilation of parts of three Ramseur board of commissioners meetings showing the timeline and discussion leading up to a pretty significant change in how we constitute our planning board here.

On December 20, 2022, Commissioner Parrish proposed an amendment to the administrative ordinance in our town’s corporate charter governing how many members sit on our planning board and where they must live. At that time the rule stipulated that all five planning board members must be residents of the Town of Ramseur. Mr. Parrish proposed a change that would allow planning board members to be anyone living within one mile of Ramseur’s corporate limits. His reasoning for this had to do with how hard it is to get people to serve on that particular board, so he wanted to expand the pool.

Counsellor Wilhoit expressed concern that a public hearing might be necessary to make such a change and the issue was tabled. The intention, on December 20, was to discuss and possibly take action during a special meeting scheduled for January 10, but that did not occur. Instead, the discussion resumed at the January 17 meeting. A motion was made, seconded, and approved, with a minimal quorum of only three commissioners, zero discussion among board members, and without any public comment, let alone a public hearing, and now non-taxpayers get a vote in how our zoning ordinances are written and any other work done by the planning board.

On February 10, 2023, I wrote, “[W]hen I was researching ETJ, I found a couple of sections in chapter 160D that apply specifically to planning boards and boards of adjustment, how they are to be composed, and what the function of an alternate should be.

“[T]he alternates our commissioners are always searching for belong to the board of adjustment, not the planning board. There should not be alternate members on our planning board any more than there should be alternate members of the board of commissioners allowed to sit, discuss, and vote on issues before that board when a commissioner can’t attend meetings.”

It’s pretty obvious that Mr. Parrish read my article, and he understands that I know what I’m talking about better than he does because immediately after appointing Sanda Bullin to the planning board during the February 21 meeting, despite the fact that there were already five seated members, the next issue the commissioner wanted to discuss had to do with the board of adjustment – currently the board of commissioners – and changes that need to be made to that board. The thought that a decision he could be involved in might end up in court absolutely terrifies Mr. Parrish. See for yourself, the clip is only about three minutes long

Unfair? No, it’s not fairness the commissioner is concerned about. He’s terrified of landing on the wrong side of a legal decision and having his name stuck to it. In other words, he’s afraid of being made to look foolish. Sorry, commissioner, it’s much too late for that.

Commissioner Parrish claims to be concerned about the looming growth of our community, and that is a legitimate concern, but instead of slowing down and following the process for adopting ETJ and then dealing with the question of representation, the commissioner was in an almost frantic rush to appoint Ms. Bullin to that board. The question I think we’re all asking is, why? What’s the hurry? Why not follow the process laid out by our legislators in Raleigh? Why is it so important to have Ms. Bullin, who lives outside our town and does not pay our taxes, sitting on that board and able to vote?

Commissioner Parrish is so concerned about this issue that he wants to circumvent the rules laid out in Chapters 160D-202 & 307, and change parts of our town’s corporate charter so he can appoint the candidate of his choosing, rather than risk letting the county commissioners appoint someone of their choosing when the appropriate time arrives. The only change our corporate charter needs is the one that would mandate hiring a town manager.

The state only requires three members to sit on our planning board. Not five; three. Prior to the meeting on February 21, according to our town’s official website, there were already five members, and as I have proven, no alternate members are needed for that board.

If we can’t get a quorum of three people to show up for planning board meetings perhaps the solution isn’t loading it full of your own toadies Mr. Parrish. Maybe a better solution would be to shrink the board to its statutory minimum of three members until such time as Ramseur does adopt an ETJ, and then, following the proper statutory process, we could add one or even two residents from that area to the planning board.

Mr. Parrish, I know you read that article because you’re an email subscriber to this site, and I know you understood at least enough of it to know that you wanted to wash your hands of all that tricky sticky board of adjustment business. But you had worked so carefully to accommodate Sandra’s appointment over the past few months I guess you must have felt obligated to see it through, so you stayed the course and steered that boat right onto the reef. Oh, sure, changing that administrative ordinance may have been legal, but you and I and most other citizens of our community know that what you did was unnecessary and self-serving, and we will not forget.

Setting the record straight.

Well, folks, I’m not a town commissioner this morning, and I’m okay with that. I want to start by congratulating Tresa Hatchett on winning her appointment to the board of commissioners last night. I left shortly after that vote was taken, and yes, I was upset, but not by the fact that anyone else won the seat. I think the board made a good choice.

That said, I want to address a blatant lie spoken by Commissioner Joy Kearns during my so-called interview. She stated that I stood at that podium in the past and said that I wanted to “spit” in her face because she was unvaccinated. That is utterly false and I would never say, let alone do such a thing. My momma raised me better than that. I did stand at that podium on the night of August 17, 2021, and I did chastise Ms. Kearns (then known as Mrs. Hooker) for her despicable behavior.

Recall that during that time we were well over a year into a global pandemic that has now taken the lives of millions worldwide, and ruined the lives of millions more. Our county health department was part of a statewide effort to encourage people to obtain vaccinations against Covid-19, and Hooker/Kearns took offense at the fact that our mayor asked the town’s webmaster to place graphics, from the county health department, on the Ramseur’s official website, to make people aware of a program that offered financial incentives for vaccinations. In the same meeting, Commissioner Parrish incorrectly insisted that if we posted that message then the town had an obligation to give equal space to “the other” which he later clarified to mean those who were anti-vaccination.

Several people spoke that night, as did I. I asked the board members how many among them had taken the vaccine, and Commissioner Hooker stated that she had not and would not take it. I stated that I had been vaccinated and that the night before had attended a concert with 20,000 people. Then I suggested that the commissioner should be willing to let me come sit near her and “breathe all over you”. The word spit never entered my mind, let alone crossed my lips.

Commissioner, you owe me a public apology for that bald-faced lie. I don’t expect to get that apology, and that’s fine. The fact that you are willing to deliberately distort the truth to further your own agenda says far more about you than it does about me.

I am a flawed human being, like anyone else. I make mistakes, and when shown my error I am willing to change course and make apologies when warranted. As anyone who watched that meeting last night can see, I am a much better writer and researcher than I am a public speaker. I walked straight into that ambush, and that’s all it was.

I knew Kearns and Parrish would never vote for me, although to this day I cannot understand why Commissioner Parrish welcomed my support during the election in 2019, benefited from the work I did here, and then almost immediately began treating me like an enemy. I’m guessing it had something to do with the fact that my allegiance cannot be bought. My respect is earned, and it can be lost, and Commissioner, you have lost any respect I ever had for you. I regret voting for you in 2019.

The video below doesn’t lie, but the commissioner did. See for yourself.

And now I’m going to watch the rest of the meeting from last night and see what I missed.

Who should the commissioners appoint?

On January 12, 2023, I sent an email to Mayor Caudle stating my interest in fulfilling Commissioner Jim McIntosh’s unexpired term. That message was in turn forwarded to the town clerk.

I wrote: I was disappointed to hear of Jim McIntosh’s decision to step down before his term ended but given the pressures of the job and the needless drama he had to deal with I can’t blame him.

While I do not possess the knowledge or experience Jim brought to the board, I have spent the last thirty years working around all types of utility maintenance operations, and construction projects of every kind.

My familiarity with these industries would be a valuable asset as the board moves through numerous decisions on water, sewer, stormwater, street maintenance, and growth-related matters we will face over the coming months and years.

In addition, I bring a functional knowledge of how local governments work in our state that most citizens without government-related work experience do not generally have. I gained that knowledge via my reading and writing four years ago in the lead-up to the election in 2019. I bought the “Book” published by the School of Government, have read much of it, and refer to it still when I have questions.

Given the above facts, I think I would bring valuable insights and balance to the Board of Commissioners, and with that in mind I respectfully submit my name for consideration to serve the remaining months of Jim’s term in office.

The book I referred to is County and Municipal Government in North Carolina, published by the UNC School of Government. It cost about $150 with shipping and was money well spent. Of course, owning a book doesn’t mean I think I know all there is to know about how local government works. I’ve barely scratched the surface, but I’ve learned enough to know that we’ve got to do better here.

As Mr. Parrish stated in the last board meeting, being a commissioner, especially in a town without a manager, is harder than most people imagine. It’s not brain surgery, but you do need to be able and willing to do a lot of reading and a lot more learning, and I like to learn.

At the last meeting on January 17th, the mayor asked the commissioners to be prepared to fill that empty seat this coming Tuesday, February 21, 2023, during their next regular monthly meeting.

An advance copy of the upcoming meeting agenda seems to indicate that at least one commissioner, despite possessing a list of applicants for more than a month, wants to conduct interviews instead of voting. What was the last month for, commissioners? Where have you been? I’ve been right here, easy to reach, and I think I’ve made a pretty good case. Were Tanya Kenyon, Tim Matthews, or Joy Kearns interviewed when their appointments were made? If so, how, when, and by whom? I’d like to review the transcripts.

The board really ought to vote Tuesday night. They’ve had more than enough time to consider the question. I think most of us just want to see our local government doing things the right way; moving this town toward a path to long-term stability and well-managed growth and I’ve been offering to help for a long while now. In fact, I’m so willing to help, I’ll do it for free until December when Commissioner McIntosh’s term should have ended.

Call it an olive branch. Call it whatever you want.

There’s a new budget to be written over the coming months, and according to Open the Books Project, Ramseur’s payroll almost doubled between 2019 and 2021. I’ve been looking at past and current budgets, and look forward to digging deeper into that puzzle in the coming weeks, one way or another.

What’s a moratorium, and why would Ramseur impose one on legal businesses?

In America, we’re not supposed to let the government pick winners and losers; that’s what the free market is supposed to be for, or so I was taught. Business moratoria are such a serious business that the state of North Carolina imposes very strict regulations on how, when, and why a municipality can ban, even temporarily, any otherwise legal business. Last December, our board of commissioners imposed a 120 days moratorium on any new ‘electronic gaming establishments’ in Ramseur.

I really don’t care about electronic gaming places one way or the other. I do think they send most of the money they collect out of our community, and that’s not ideal, and if they are breaking the law, then shut’em down, but if Raleigh says they’re legal, I thought the American way was to let the market decide whether they survive or not.

Here is a link to the relevant statute:  § 160D-107.  Moratoria

The statute says “local governments may adopt temporary moratoria on any development approval required by law, except for the purpose of developing and adopting new or amended plans or development regulations governing residential uses. The duration of any moratorium shall be reasonable in light of the specific conditions that warrant imposition of the moratorium and may not exceed the period of time necessary to correct, modify, or resolve such conditions.

Except in cases of imminent and substantial threat to public health or safety, before adopting a development regulation imposing a development moratorium the governing board shall hold a legislative hearing. 

Moratorium does not apply to any project for which a valid building permit [has been] issued, to any project for which a special use permit application has been accepted as complete, to development set forth in a site-specific vesting plan  [already] approved, to development for which substantial expenditures have already been made in good-faith reliance on a prior valid development approval, or to preliminary or final subdivision plats that have been accepted for review by the local government prior to the call for a hearing to adopt the moratorium. 

Required Statements. – Any development regulation establishing a development moratorium must include, at the time of adoption, each of the following:

(1)        A statement of the problems or conditions necessitating the moratorium and what courses of action, alternative to a moratorium, were considered by the local government and why those alternative courses of action were not deemed adequate.

(2)        A statement of the development approvals subject to the moratorium and how a moratorium on those approvals will address the problems or conditions leading to imposition of the moratorium.

(3)        A date for termination of the moratorium and a statement setting forth why that duration is reasonably necessary to address the problems or conditions leading to imposition of the moratorium.

(4)        A statement of the actions, and the schedule for those actions, proposed to be taken by the local government during the duration of the moratorium to address the problems or conditions leading to imposition of the moratorium.

No moratorium may be subsequently renewed or extended for any additional period unless the local government has taken all reasonable and feasible steps proposed to be taken in its ordinance establishing the moratorium to address the problems or conditions leading to imposition of the moratorium and unless new facts and conditions warrant an extension. 

Any person aggrieved by the imposition of a moratorium on development approvals required by law may apply to the General Court of Justice for an order enjoining the enforcement of the moratorium.

That’s a lot to keep track of, and I don’t think our board made much of an effort to meet all those requirements.

The commissioners held a mandatory legislative hearing that only one person seemed to care anything about, and he didn’t care much because he left before it ended. It was a very short hearing. Then, during the regular meeting that followed, Commissioner Parrish moved to impose a 120 days moratorium so our planning board – chaired by someone who lives in Greensboro – and our police department can “work on” our ordinances and/or figure out what occupied piece of real estate in town they can re-zone for ‘adult’ businesses. That way if anyone comes to town looking for a place to open an electronic game room, a gentlemen’s club, a bar, or any legal ‘adult’ business, the only parcel of land zoned for that use will already be occupied by a house, a lube shop, a grocery store, or maybe even a church; any developed real estate that won’t likely become unoccupied in the near future will do.

Does this sound ridiculous yet?

When imposing an economic moratorium a governing board must state what issues made the moratorium necessary; how it will address those problems; issue a statement addressing any pending zoning permits, special use permits, variances, etc. that will be subject to the moratorium; state how a moratorium on those ventures will address the stated issues; set an end date for the moratorium; say why it’s going to take that long; and produce a schedule of specific actions that will be taken during the moratorium.

I watched an elected Ramseur commissioner suggest, in a recorded public meeting, how to keep legal businesses out of our town, but if a business is legal and operating within the law that’s a really questionable thing for our government to be doing. I felt dirty after watching that video; like I needed to bathe. I thought chamber of commerce people were supposed to encourage business growth in a town, not tell them to stay away.

During the discussion, the commissioner spoke of police officers “going out there,” and “warning them about certain situations”.  Please tell us, commissioner, who is “them,” where are they, and what situations were you talking about. Give us details. Don’t roll up in our town hall and impose restrictions on the local economy without a stack of evidence to support your actions. Does the business in question have a name we might recognize? Is it located at an address we could find on a map? Are there police reports of actual incidents at that place of business that citizens could request and read?

I can’t speak for any other taxpayers in Ramseur, but I get really tired of all the fearmongering I hear coming from that seat on our board, used as excuses to spend more money or restrict commerce.  A simple statement like, “On (date) patrolman X responded to a call about Y at 123 Sesame Street about activity Z and took actions A, B, or C,” and a police report or three to back it up would go a long way towards helping everyone understand from what or whom you want to protect us.

If whatever is going on wherever it’s happening is so bad that it merits this kind of heavy-handed interference in the local economy – a moratorium on a legal business type – the board of commissioners and its planning board are both failing, because this isn’t the first moratorium that I can recall. We keep doing this again and again, like some bad remake of the movie, Groundhog Day, and there’s no excuse. As commissioners, this is your job, and in my opinion, you have all failed. If conditions somewhere are so bad that we need to take this kind of drastic action, we need to be provided with concrete facts, not vague fearmongering about bad elements and unspecified problems.

An assertion was also made that neighboring business owners have complained about a lack of parking for their customers. That’s a fair complaint, but it sounds like a problem caused by inadequate zoning regulations in the past, which allowed commercial development without adequate parking. I suspect the properties in question were developed long ago, maybe even before Ramseur had zoning ordinances. Perhaps we should ask that guy from Greensboro about it since he’s been meddling in our local government for decades.

Commissioner Parrish stated that problems “come around those businesses,” and that, in turn, leads to increased call volume for the police department and strains the budget. He further stated that the imposition of this moratorium “gives us time to work on our ordinances,” and “provide safety to our community.” A moratorium also “gives us time (120 days) to work on our ordinances”.

Would these be the same ordinances that we paid a consultant thousands of dollars to help us update a couple of years ago to meet the new chapter 160D mandates?  The same ordinances we now need to spend more money paying yet another consultant to review? The same ordinances that non-residents of Ramseur get to vote on now?

Exactly what are the “problems that come around those businesses.”?

Someone on the board must have asked that question because on the video members of the police department can be heard telling the board members about how a “bad element” follows these businesses, and how the patrons of these establishments often lose all their money and then break into nearby homes or businesses to steal more money to gamble.

I see headlines about people getting shot at nightclubs and bars, and maybe even at these gaming businesses too, somewhere, just like you do, but if people in Ramseur were being robbed by disgruntled fish skill players I think we’d all know about it. Show me concrete evidence of a crime wave like this in our community and I’ll be the first in line to look for ways to address it.

As for the commissioner’s statement that electronic gaming establishments cause an unmanageable increase in police calls and strain the budget; no, I’m sorry, you don’t get to tell us that more calls to 911 help justify increased funding for our police department, and then tell us that more calls strain your department or our budget. I mean no disrespect to our police officers. They have a very stressful, often dangerous job to do and limited funds to do it with, but you can’t have it both ways.

Worst of all was the bit at the end where the commissioner and the attorney sat there passing judgment on people who make a living letting other people waste money on electronic games. The commissioner actually sat there, in a recorded public meeting, and explained how a local government can re-zone any given property to keep otherwise legal businesses out of Ramseur. The recording doesn’t lie, and the scheme described would generate more paperwork and expensive permitting processes that, for now, only a paid consultant can walk our planning board through.

This moratorium was a bad idea and I’m having a hard time understanding how the statutory statements read into the record did anything constructive for our town, let alone how all of this doesn’t leave us vulnerable to expensive legal action from any competent land development attorney.

A little something positive.

Writing about problems facing Ramseur and the errors made by commissioner X, Y, or Z in any given meeting can be really depressing, and this blog is not and never was meant to be a personal attack machine. Four years ago, when I started this, questionable decisions were being made by several of our then-commissioners and I decided to shine a light on that. Some of those people chose to make it personal, so we all went down that road together. It got really ugly, and I didn’t like it, but I would do it all again the same way in the same circumstances.

Those of you who read these pages back then have probably noticed that almost all those articles are no longer visible. They’re all here, but I chose to hide them. Those people no longer serve our community as elected officials. In fact, one of those people has thanked me, on more than one occasion, because now that person is living a less stressful life and enjoying it. I see no value in leaving that sad chapter of our local history here where it can be found and dredged up for no other reason than hurting people.

I’m not here to “get” anyone. I’d much rather be spending my time playing music, painting, or playing with my grandchildren. I’m only here to point out that there are better ways to manage our affairs, and if a commissioner or the mayor, or even a town employee, depending on the circumstances, does something questionable or really stupid, I will shine a light on them. If you don’t want to see your name on this website, don’t do stupid stuff.

I re-watched the last two regular meeting videos today with one goal in mind: to find some positive things to tell you about Ramseur’s local government.

At the December meeting, all five commissioners voted to approve a resolution in support of the “Year of the Trail“. We’ve spent some serious money developing our segment of the Deep River Rail Trail, most of it, to my knowledge, from grants. Walking trails are great community assets, and this one will be even better once the state comes through with funding to finish it and tie all the other pieces of it together.

Another positive development of note is the return of local artists and artwork to our municipal building. Commissioner Brower has taken the lead on this project, beginning with a month-long display of artwork by local photographer Gloria Spinks in January, followed by a display of work by Darrell Williams this month. It sounds like the display area is not open to the public anytime the offices are open, so check with the office or the town website and be sure it’s open to the public before you make that long drive across town.

In December the board discussed costs and options for updating our water treatment plant to a chloramine-based process with Mr. Helton, our public utilities director. These changes will result in cleaner water overall and require less flushing at the end of the line on NC-22 south of town. The upgrades will also make our water compatible with treatment processes used by every other water operator around us, making it easier to work with our neighbors to meet the growing water needs of the eastern Randolph community. The upgrades will be expensive and take months to complete but are yet another step in the right direction.

Commissioner Parrish announced the award of a $35,000 grant to the fire department. He indicated that the funds would be used for purchasing new radios, and then the commissioner talked about a budgeted capital outlay of $62,000 to $65,000, but that only about $33,000 of that money will be needed. It was unclear whether this outlay was for the radios or for something else.

Our fire department, under the leadership of Chief Jay Ledwell, is in good hands. Chief Ledwell and his peers have learned where to find and how to win numerous grants over the years, and I thank them for their continued service to our community. You might have noticed that I don’t spend much time examining the particulars of fire and police expenses. That’s because I trust our fire chief and Police Chief Presley to know what they need and how to ask when a need arises.

I also try not to burden any of our department heads with requests for public records, and I ask for far fewer than I’d like to see most of the time. Their jobs are difficult enough, having to win approval from a committee for almost every decision they make and I hope that in the near future, we can streamline the chain of command so they all answer to a town manager.

Apparently, buzzards are still a problem, roosting on the water tanks. I like buzzards. They provide a valuable public service, cleaning up dead things that, left to rot, can become dangerous disease vectors, but if the birds are damaging the water tanks we need to find a way to keep them off the structures. Perhaps a wire barrier could be erected to prevent them from being able to roost, but I don’t know the rules, and turkey vultures are a protected species.

Captain Jessup gave a well-prepared presentation to the board regarding portable, radar-equipped speed limit signs the department wanted to purchase. The signs show drivers their speed and record the time of day and speed of each detected vehicle. In theory, this will alert drivers when they may be going too fast, and provide law enforcement with data they can use to deploy personnel more efficiently and issue citations to violators.

From what I gathered the cost of one sign and several mounts, which will allow it to be moved around town, was a bit under $4,000. The purchase was approved and the sign should be appearing soon on a street near you, along with a couple of sets of portable speed bumps. These are useful tools that will hopefully result in fewer drivers speeding through our neighborhoods. Money well spent.

That topic was followed by a report from Commissioner Cranford regarding the library, which the county government is in the process of taking over from us. This is an idea I began supporting several years ago when there was much debate over a new roof for the building. I understand that the town retains ownership and maintenance responsibilities for the building, and the county is handling day-to-day operations.

These are all positive steps toward creating a more modern, efficient, and responsive local government for Ramseur taxpayers. It is a little sad that the most animated discussion of the evening was about how to dispose of a piano someone donated to the library long ago. It is sadder still that so many of our commissioners, all members of the board for more than a year now, do not understand that there is a statutory process for almost everything the government does, including disposal of surplus property, but let’s not dwell on that today.

The discussion moved on to Sunset Knoll cemetery and a fence, installed in 2019, that leans badly anytime the wind blows. That is due to the fact that whoever built the fence didn’t install any support beyond the hollow plastic posts stuck in the ground. It too will be sold as surplus property on GovDeals.Com.

During one of the meetings, there was a discussion about library funds. Government is complicated, and certain funds have to be kept separate from others, such as the enterprise funds for water and sewer, the Powell funds that help us maintain our streets, and Hinshaw funds, which I can’t find a reference to anywhere online other than in Ramseur budgets. I might have this wrong, but it seems like the Hinshaw funds were privately donated to the town sometime in the past, invested and the interest earned earmarked specifically for our library to buy books. Rules must be followed.

In parks and recreation news, Commissioner Kearns presented the board with a $22,000 quote to get the tennis courts at Leonard park repaired and resurfaced. No action was taken, but it sounds as though that maintenance has been neglected too long and now the courts are unfit for use, and there’s a popular thing called pickleball that uses a similar playing area and, apparently, there’s some demand for that.

Maybe resurfacing the tennis courts is a good investment, maybe not. I’m not in a position to say one way or another, but it is a shame that they haven’t been maintained. Now we face another big expense to fix something that might have been preventable with regular inspections and maintenance; things a town manager would keep up with no matter who we elect to sit on the board every other year.

Finally, the town will soon be fully switched over to the new “Southern” accounting system they’ve been working on for a few years. This should result in better, more reliable accounting, and therefore better budgets. It was also announced that the LGC (local government commission, a part of the NC Department of State Treasurer) has accepted our budget audit for the fiscal year 2019-20, and progress is being made on the audit for FY 2020-21. A thank you is due to all involved in getting that work done.

So, you see, not everything I write is bad news, and I am more than willing to give credit where credit is due. The problem is that there’s so much still being done wrong and those things need to be pointed out so they don’t get swept under a rug or forgotten. I’ve only reported on two meetings this year and I’m still not finished pointing out the major problems I see.

Now I have a question.

It’s said that the articles I write are full of lies. If you’re one of the people saying that, please drop me a note at RamseurWatchdog@yahoo.com and tell me what part of what article I’ve written is a lie. I might miss a detail or make an assumption once in a while based on incomplete information, but every word I publish here is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as I understand it. Why would I lie? That would destroy my credibility. What good would that do me or anyone else? What would I accomplish if I published a document with fake numbers or anything else in it? I’ll tell you what. Nothing.

Planning boards and boards of adjustment are not the same.

We’re doing these things wrong here in Ramseur, and I’m about to show you how, but first, we need to make sure we all understand what a quasi-judicial decision is.

Quasi-judicial decisions involve the application of ordinance policies to individual situations. Examples include variances, special- and conditional-use permits (even if issued by the governing board), appeals, and interpretations. These decisions involve two key elements—the finding of facts regarding the specific proposal and the exercise of judgment and discretion in applying predetermined policies to the situation. Since quasi-judicial decisions do not involve setting new policies, the broad public notice requirements that exist for legislative decisions do not apply. However, the courts have imposed fairly strict procedural requirements on these decisions in order to protect the legal rights of the parties involved. Quasi-judicial decisions are most often assigned to boards of adjustment, appointed by the governing board.

The critical part to remember is that quasi-judicial decisions are legal decisions that can wind up being examined and either upheld or overturned in a district or superior court, and things have gotten ugly and expensive either way if we find ourselves in court.

The governing body of the Town of Ramseur is the board of commissioners. By statute, the board of commissioners is empowered to appoint a number of subordinate boards; among them are the planning board and one called the board of adjustment.

Eight years ago or so those two boards were made up of the same members, but one day a question came along that required a quasi-judicial hearing from the board of adjustment, and along the way to the hearing someone realized there was a problem.

It turns out that there was a clause buried in statutes that said the planning board could offer a preliminary forum for review of quasi-judicial decisions, which they had already apparently done, provided that no part of the forum or its recommendation be used as a basis for the deciding board. That complicated things.

The statute has since been updated with similar, if not identical language, and incorporated into 160D – 301, as we will see below.

So the planning board went to the board of commissioners and said, “Hey, we’re not allowed to do this.”

Well, the board of commissioners had to get that decision decided, because money was involved and time is money, and since so few people in Ramseur have time or enough interest in managing an enterprise as complicated as a small town for a couple of hundred bucks a month or less, the commissioners quickly appointed themselves to be the board of adjustment.

Problem solved! Not so fast.

That solution worked because none of the commissioners had any conflicts of interest in the question being decided that day, and it’s worked a few more times since then, but it won’t work forever because some decisions a board of adjustment makes must be decided by a four-fifths (4/5) majority, and there’s also a statutory mandate for staggered three-year terms for board of adjustment members.

The other day when I was researching ETJ, I found a couple of sections in chapter 160D that apply specifically to planning boards and boards of adjustment, how they are to be composed, and what the function of an alternate should be.

The alternates our commissioners are constantly trying to recruit are supposed to be alternate members of the board of adjustment. They are not supposed to sit on the planning board, nor vote on planning board decisions.

See for yourself. The relevant sections of the statutes are copied below. Again, as with the last post, all bolding and CAPITALIZATION other than section headings are mine. Headings are linked to the source.

(a)    Composition. – A local government may by ordinance provide for the appointment and compensation of a planning board or may designate one or more boards or commissions to perform the duties of a planning board. A planning board established pursuant to this section may include, but shall not be limited to, one or more of the following:

(1)    A planning board of any size or composition deemed appropriate, organized in any manner deemed appropriate; provided, however, the board shall have at least three members.

(2)    A joint planning board created by two or more local governments pursuant to Part 1 of Article 20 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes. *This part doesn’t apply to us.

(b)    Duties. – A planning board MAY be assigned the following powers and duties:

(1)    To prepare, review, maintain, monitor, and periodically update and recommend to the governing board a comprehensive plan, and such other plans as deemed appropriate, and conduct ongoing related research, data collection, mapping, and analysis.

(2)    To facilitate and coordinate citizen engagement and participation in the planning process.

(3)    To develop and recommend policies, ordinances, development regulations, administrative procedures, and other means for carrying out plans in a coordinated and efficient manner.

(4)    To advise the governing board concerning the implementation of plans, including, but not limited to, review and comment on all zoning text and map amendments as required by G.S. 160D-604.

(5)    To exercise any functions in the administration and enforcement of various means for carrying out plans that the governing board may direct.

(6)    To provide a preliminary forum for review of quasi-judicial decisions, provided that no part of the forum or recommendation may be used as a basis for the deciding board.

(7)    To perform any other related duties that the governing board may direct.  (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)


Pay attention to sub-section (6) above. One of the statutory duties of a planning board is to “provide a preliminary forum for review of quasi-judicial decisions, provided that no part of the forum or recommendation may be used for a basis for the deciding board.”

Who or what is the deciding board? The board of adjustment!

  •  160D-302.  Boards of adjustment.

(a)    Composition. – A local government may by ordinance provide for the appointment and compensation of a board of adjustment consisting of five or more members, each to be appointed for three-year terms. In appointing the original members or in the filling of vacancies caused by the expiration of the terms of existing members, the governing board may appoint certain members for less than three years so that the terms of all members shall not expire at the same time. The governing board may appoint and provide compensation for alternate members to serve on the board in the absence or temporary disqualification of any regular member or to fill a vacancy pending appointment of a member. Alternate members shall be appointed for the same term, at the same time, and in the same manner as regular members. Each alternate member serving on behalf of any regular member has all the powers and duties of a regular member.

(b)    Duties. – The board shall hear and decide all matters upon which it is required to pass under any statute or development regulation adopted under this Chapter. The ordinance may designate a planning board or governing board to perform any of the duties of a board of adjustment in addition to its other duties and may create and designate specialized boards to hear technical appeals. If any board other than the board of adjustment is assigned decision-making authority for any quasi-judicial matter, that board shall comply with all of the procedures and the process applicable to a board of adjustment in making quasi-judicial decisions.  (2019-111, s. 2.4; 2020-3, s. 4.33(a); 2020-25, s. 51(a), (b), (d).)


The board of adjustment can be the planning board, but the planning board can’t review or make recommendations in quasi-judicial decisions to be decided by the board of adjustment.

Either way, the alternates our commissioners are always searching for belong to the board of adjustment, not the planning board. There should not be alternate members on our planning board any more than there should be alternate members of the board of commissioners allowed to sit, discuss, and vote on issues before that board when a commissioner can’t attend meetings. Can you imagine the butt-hurt such a suggestion would cause?

We’ve been doing this, and a lot of other business, wrong in Ramseur for a very long time. I had hoped, almost four years ago, that the new board we elected in 2019 would be smarter than the old board members they replaced, and I don’t think I’m the only one disappointed today.

Statutes dictate three-year staggered terms for the board of adjustment members, and since our commissioners serve four-year terms, that solution doesn’t immediately meet the state’s mandate. A five-member board of adjustment, separate from the planning board, needs to be recruited and properly empaneled soon.

Our planning board should remain a five-person board, assuming there are five people living in Ramseur who are interested enough in that work to show up consistently and get it done; if not then maybe that board should be reduced to only three members.

Until such time as ETJ is adopted by Ramseur, no members of any board or commission should reside outside the municipal boundaries of the Town of Ramseur. If ETJ is adopted, any new members of the planning board should be in addition to the resident members, and those appointments must follow the procedures laid out in chapter 160D-307.

Regular and alternate members of a board of adjustment should be recruited with the understanding that those duties are only required on an as-needed basis. One or two sitting commissioners could do double duty as board of adjustment members, provided the state’s mandatory staggered three-year terms are observed. Former commissioners, former mayors, or perhaps members of the ABC board could also be persuaded to serve in those capacities if no other qualified candidates step forward.

It would be smart to have a list of qualified, willing alternates available should a member of the board of adjustment need to recuse him or herself from a decision. They could be vetted for conflicts of interest on a case-by-case basis, sworn in as needed, sit through a hearing, help render a decision, and get on with their lives.

Should Ramseur adopt ETJ?

What’s all this talk about ETJ and why does one of our commissioners want to add “outside citizens” – people who don’t live or pay property taxes in Ramseur – to the planning board? That was the main question on my mind when I left the regular January meeting of our board of commissioners. So I went back and watched the video of the December meeting again to see what I’d missed.

[NOTE: I embedded the video from the Town of Ramseur’s YouTube page below, but as you can see, the video owner – Town of Ramseur – has disabled playback anywhere but on YouTube. Not my circus.]

The work of managing our town’s affairs is overwhelming the administrative staff, and one commissioner has convinced his fellow board members that the solution is for the town to adopt ETJ and change the composition of our planning board.

We’ll get to those changes in a bit, but first, what is ETJ?

ETJ stands for extraterritorial jurisdiction. It is an area outside a municipality’s corporate limits in which the city can exercise land use and zoning regulations. 

“When a city adopts an extraterritorial-boundary ordinance, the city acquires jurisdiction for all of its ordinances adopted under Chapter 160D, and the county loses its jurisdiction for the same range of ordinances. This includes not only zoning and subdivision ordinances but also housing and building codes and regulations on historic districts and historic landmarks, open spaces, community development, erosion and sedimentation control, floodways, mountain ridges, and roadway corridors.”

How does adopting ETJ do us any good today? All I can see it doing for the moment is adding to the almost $224,000 we’re budgeted to spend this year on contracted and professional services and administrative salaries.  A little over $100,000 of that pays for our code enforcement/planning consultants, legal counsel, and any other consultants advising our clerk/finance officer and her staff. Some of that money would be better spent on a town manager.

According to comments made by Commissioner Parrish at the December and January board meetings, our local ordinances specified that our planning board is to be composed of five members. Chapter 160D of North Carolina General Statutes mandates a minimum of three members for such a board but otherwise leaves it to the discretion of local governments to decide how many members to appoint, and where those members can live.

Prior to the adoption of the commissioner’s amendment, which passed 4-0, only people residing within the municipal limits of Ramseur were eligible to sit on our planning board. Now, anyone living within one mile of town limits can be appointed and vote on our planning board’s decisions. Seems like that cart is way out in front of the horse.

The first justification we’ll likely hear for this change will be ‘nobody wants to serve’ so let’s stop for a moment and consider why it seems like no one stays on any board in this town for long. Since I moved into town in late 2014, eighteen different people have occupied the five seats on our board of commissioners. Eighteen different commissioners in less than ten years.

If we had replaced every commissioner in every municipal election held here since 2015, that would only have been ten individuals. Turnover on the planning board has been about as bad; maybe worse. My wife applied to fill an open seat in 2016 and was turned away. She’d have done well. In early 2020 I had a seat on the planning board for a few months, and I’d be happy to tell you why I quit.

The planning board is an insult to every citizen of Ramseur and will remain such until its chairman resigns. He lives in Greensboro, in Guilford County, and he has for years. He’s gotten away with it by claiming to live here on his voter registration, and probably on his driver’s license, and the fact that he owns a couple of rented houses on Bush Street.

Everyone connected to our local government knows this and has known for longer than I can remember. I refused to sit on that board while every elected official in town looked the other way at what I consider a crime on par with voter fraud.

Less than a month ago one of our elected commissioners convinced his fellow board members to alter the administrative ordinances of our town so people living up to one mile outside town can have a voice in our local government. Those folks are more than welcome to initiate voluntary satellite annexation. Pay taxes here like the rest of us; that’s how you get to have a voice in Ramseur.

The government we have today is every bit as dysfunctional as it was before the 2019 election, and in some ways, it may even be worse. This is why we can’t get better leaders to step forward in our community. Nobody wants to serve in elected or appointed office in Ramseur, because it’s not worth the heartache and misery.

A commissioner says our administrative staff is overworked and all the experts he talks to tell him that planning and zoning administration is usually done by a town manager. Those same experts also told him that under no circumstances should planning and zoning be administered by the chief financial officer. I could not agree more. Both jobs are far too important, time-consuming, and complicated for one individual to try to fill both roles.

Below I have copied the most relevant text from Chapter 160D, the statute the mayor and attorney Wilhoit regularly reference in board meetings when discussing planning, zoning, and code enforcement issues. I have tried to edit the text in such a way that you can easily read through it and understand what the state requires without wading through mountains of text irrelevant to our town. Other than the section headings, all bolding and CAPITALIZATION below are mine. You can compare the original text by clicking HERE.

Begin quoted text:

  • 160D-202.  Municipal extraterritorial jurisdiction.

(a)    Any city MAY exercise the powers granted to cities under this Chapter within a defined area extending not more than one mile beyond its contiguous corporate limitsPursuant to G.S. 160A-58.4, extraterritorial municipal planning and development regulation may be extended only from the primary corporate boundary of a city and not from the boundary of satellite areas of the city.

(d)   Any municipality proposing to exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction under this Chapter SHALL notify the owners of all parcels of land proposed for addition to the area of extraterritorial jurisdiction, as shown on the county tax records. The notice SHALL be sent by first-class mail to the last addresses listed for affected property owners in the county tax records. The notice SHALL inform the landowner of the effect of the extension of extraterritorial jurisdiction, of the landowner’s RIGHT to participate in a LEGISLATIVE HEARING PRIOR TO ADOPTION of any ordinance extending the area of extraterritorial jurisdiction, as provided in G.S. 160D-601, and of the RIGHT of all residents of the area TO APPLY to the board of COUNTY COMMISSIONERS to serve as a representative on the planning board and the board of adjustment, as provided in G.S. 160D-303. The notice shall be mailed at least 30 days prior to the date of the hearing

(e)    Any council exercising extraterritorial jurisdiction under this Chapter SHALL adopt an ordinance specifying the areas to be included based upon existing or projected urban development and areas of critical concern to the city, as evidenced by officially adopted plans for its development… Boundaries shall be defined, to the extent feasible, in terms of geographical features identifiable on the ground [and] may follow parcel ownership boundaries

(f)    The county MAY, ON REQUEST of the city council, exercise any or all of these powers in any or all areas lying within the city’s corporate limits or within the city’s specified area of extraterritorial jurisdiction.

  • 160D-307.  Extraterritorial representation on boards.

(a)    When a city elects to exercise extraterritorial powers under this Chapter, it SHALL provide a means of proportional representation based on population for residents of the extraterritorial area to be regulatedRepresentation shall be provided by appointing AT LEAST ONE resident of the entire extraterritorial planning and development regulation area to the planning board [and the] board of adjustment.

(b)    The extraterritorial representatives on a city advisory boardSHALL be appointed by the board of COUNTY commissioners with jurisdiction over the area. The COUNTY SHALL make the appointments within 90 days following the receipt of a request from the city that the appointments be made…If a board of county commissioners fails to make these appointments within 90 days AFTER receiving a resolution from the city council requesting that they be made, the city council MAY make them. 

  • 160D-308.  Rules of procedure.

Rules of procedure that are consistent with the provisions of this Chapter MAY be adopted by the governing board for any or all boards created under this Article. In the absence of action by the governing board, each board created under this Article is AUTHORIZED to adopt its own rules of procedure that are consistent with the provisions of this Chapter. A copy of ANY adopted rules of procedure SHALL be maintained by the local government CLERK or such other official as DESIGNATED BY ORDINANCE and POSTED on the local government Web site if one exists. Each board SHALL keep minutes of its proceedings. 

  • 160D-310.  Appointments to boards.

Unless specified otherwise by statute or local ordinance, all appointments to boards authorized by this Chapter shall be made by the governing board of the local government. The governing board MAY establish reasonable procedures to solicit, review, and make appointments

  • 160D-402.  Administrative staff.

(c)    A local government MAY enter into CONTRACTS WITH another city, COUNTY, or combination thereof under which the parties agree to create a joint staff for the enforcement of State and local laws specified in the agreement.

End quoted text.

ETJ is a lengthy and expensive process that needs to be played out over several months or years. Chapter 160D allows us to partner with our county government to share the costs of code enforcement. In fact, we already do that to an extent; building inspections and animal control are examples of services the county provides through contracts with Ramseur.

If we decide to adopt ETJ, now or in the future, the statutes outlined above contain a process for adding proportional representation from ETJ to our planning board, at the appropriate time, and without rewriting of our administrative ordinances. Ramseur is free to contract with the county for zoning and code enforcement, and I’d wager it could be done for less money than we’d pay a small army of consultants.

It might be wise for Ramseur to study ETJ and perhaps one day adopt some, but we have much bigger issues to face and decisions to make today. As for the ordinance amendment that opened up voting seats on our planning board to non-residents of Ramseur, that horse needs to be put back in the barn, now.

That’s not how any of this works, and in my next post, I’ll explain why, and how it should.

Town manager = continuity & stability

Several years ago my neighbor and I were on his front porch talking with then-Captain Presley of the Ramseur police department. While we were there someone drove past at well over the safe speed for our little residential street. Captain Presley explained to us that if signs were posted on our street he would be able to enforce a speed limit, so my neighbors and I requested signs. Several years later, after Jim McIntosh was elected to the board of commissioners, we finally got them. Unfortunately, higher-priority calls rarely leave time for police officers to linger in residential areas long enough to catch anyone speeding.

There are, of course, other ways we could address the speeding problem that do not require additional law enforcement, but this article isn’t about speeders on Church Street or the admirable job Chief Presley does with the limited manpower we can afford to give him. To enforce ordinances we need to make people aware of them, and the best way to make drivers aware of a law is to post signs.

Back in 2019, then-Commissioner Randy Cox brought the board a proposed ordinance prohibiting truck drivers from using a loud braking method, commonly called Jake braking, inside town limits. The board of commissioners approved that ordinance.

A few months after that we had an election and Ramseur voters chose three new commissioners and a new mayor. The new mayor was then a commissioner with two years left in her term, so by early 2020 four new commissioners had been seated. We also hired a new town clerk/finance officer around the same time.

It’s never been the mayor’s job to keep up with administrative tasks, at least not according to the state legislature, and while a case could be made that it is the clerk’s job, she’s got a very full plate.

As far as I know, that anti-Jake braking ordinance is still on the books, but it seems to have been forgotten. No signs have ever been posted and without signs, it can’t be enforced. The new board members and administrative staff had much bigger issues to deal with when they took office almost three and a half years ago, but the fact remains; our board of commissioners passed an ordinance intended to make life in Ramseur a little more pleasant and the ball got dropped.

Almost every weekday morning between 6:30 and 7 A.M. a big truck rolls up Coleridge Road from south of town. The driver starts Jake braking around Foushee Road and continues all the way to at least Carter or Liberty Street. It’s so consistent – same distance, about the same time, almost every day – that it seems deliberate, and without posted signs, there’s not much police can do about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I live far enough off that road that we barely hear it inside our house, but I’d sure hate it if my home was up there on Coleridge Road, especially if I wasn’t an early riser.

This issue is yet another prime example of why we need a town manager; not an administrator, a manager.

A town manager provides consistency no matter what changes voters may make to the board of commissioners every two years, and a manager’s position is much harder for any board of commissioners to do away with than an administrator’s. All municipalities need that continuity and stability, and that is why most towns across North Carolina, large and small, have adopted the manager/council form of government.

City and county commissioners are elected to make policy decisions for others to carry out. In most places, responsibility for that “carrying out” falls upon a manager’s shoulders, and then filters down to department heads and employees.

Commissioners should never be expected to manage the day-to-day operations of a town; especially not for the $150 per month we pay ours. That’s why we must update our town’s corporate charter and hire a professional manager. The price of failing to do so is simply too high.