Political notebook: County files special use permit appeal months after denial

Published 12:10 am Saturday, December 27, 2014

Months after the denial of a government services special use permit for the former Salisbury Mall, county government on Dec. 19 finally filed an appeal that contends a number of points leading to the decision.

The appeal was submitted to superior court in the form of a writ of certiorari, which is a petition for the court to hear the matter. The appeal cites five different errors in the city’s quasi-judicial process. In the appeal, county attorney Jay Dees asks, among other things, for superior court to reverse the Salisbury City Council’s permit denial and order that the city grant the special use permit.

The city council’s vote, in October, was 4-1 against the permit, with councilman Brian Miller as the only “yes” vote. The city council’s vote followed a 7-2 vote in favor of granting the permit by the city’s planning board

The appeal states the first error in the permitting process as the vice-chairman of the Salisbury Planning Board writing several opinion columns in the Salisbury Post.

The columns were read in whole by the elected board prior to the quasi-judicial hearings, the appeal states.

In the appeal, the second error states the City of Salisbury’s three standards for special use permits are overly broad and general.

“The lack of underlying specific standards that respondent is requited to apply to each and every special use permit allows extensive discretion for respondent, amount to a legislative decision rather than a quasi-judicial decision,” the appeal’s second assignment of error states.

In the third assignment of error, the appeal states the county offered uncontroverted and competent evidence that the county met the city’s three standards — called vague earlier in the appeal.

The fourth assignment of error lists a bevy of concerns and statements about the relative objectivity of evidence presented in the quasi-judicial hearing. Evidence used in the fourth finding include: the space needs of county government; the former mall wouldn’t hurt adjoining properties; ownership of a building occupied by K&W Cafeteria; and the proposed changes to the former mall wouldn’t include any exterior changes.

The fifth and final assignment of error addresses a rumored downtown exodus if county commissioners were to move county departments to the former Salisbury Mall.

“The generalized concern over relocating petitioner’s downtown employees and the resulting impact on Downtown Salisbury was well publicized over the several months prior to the hearings, and was a very real and prominent issue laced throughout the hearings,” the appeal states.

Aside from asking for the special use permit denial to be reversed, the appeal also asks the city to send the court complete records of the City of Salisbury’s quasi-judicial hearing and the Salisbury Planning Board’s meetings. If the city council’s decision isn’t reversed, the appeal asks the judge to order new hearings for a special use permit.

Following the city council’s decision, any appeal came with a 30-day deadline for an appeal. Though, the 30-day timeline only started once the city council approved the final summary of its denial.

The Salisbury City Council denied the permit on Oct. 7 and the final summary was approved three meetings later, in late November. Dees filed the appeal within a few days of the deadline, on Dec. 19.

 Hudson’s two first bills signed into law

One of Rowan County’s three U.S. Representatives had his two first bills signed into law following the lame duck session of congress.

The two bills belonged to U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican whose district covers the southern portion of Rowan. His first bill limits airline fees on round trip flights and the second aims to introduce greater transparancy and accountability for the Transportation Security Agency.

The bills were signed into law on Dec. 19.

In response to the laws being signed into law, Hudson said: ” I’m proud of the bipartisan support these laws received, and I hope that it’s a model we can follow on some of the bigger issues facing our country.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246