Wake commissioners chastise Apex leaders over zoning issue

mquillin@newsobserver.comDecember 6, 2013 

— The Wake County Board of Commissioners recently took up the case of The Local Bar, formerly known as The Iron Horse Bar, on U.S. 64 near Apex.

The town of Apex relinquished the bar from its zoning jurisdiction in October. The town had specifically asked to include the bar in its extra-territorial jurisdiction in 2007.

Commissioners were unaware of a case in which a municipality had asked to take a property into its zoning area and then given it back.

If commissioners took no action, the bar would soon have been left without zoning, meaning there would be no regulation as to how the property could be used. It sits in the watershed for Jordan Lake, and as a commercial operation, it doesn’t fit any zoning category the county can apply to it. The half-century-old building needs to be updated, but the owners can’t borrow money to make substantial changes to the building because lenders won’t lend money for properties that don’t conform with zoning regulations.

After chastising Apex town leaders, commissioners agreed to take the parcel back into the county’s zoning jurisdiction, creating a notch in the Apex zoning boundaries. Commissioners also ordered staff to look at the case, and others where properties don’t conform to zoning rules, to see if they can find ways to compromise.

Matthews, Gurley chosen to lead

Commissioners elected Phil Matthews as the board’s chair and Tony Gurley as vice chair on Monday on a party line vote.

The partisan start to the new term was in keeping with the division that has marked the working of the board in recent years, and the split was again in evidence on some of the issues – including schools’ land purchase and construction – that came before commissioners during a 4 1/2-hour meeting.

The board’s four Republicans backed their fellow party members Matthews and Gurley. The three Democrats had supported Betty Lou Ward as chair and James West as vice chair. Matthews, who won his first term as chair, was first elected to the board in 2010, and has served as vice chair.

Matthews of Garner is owner of Matthews Sight and Sound, a volunteer firefighter and a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War.

Taking over as chair from Joe Bryan, Matthews said he would continue the board’s practice of trying to make sure items are ready for action by the time they are placed on a meeting agenda.

“I like to move forward and get things done,” he said.

But at the request of member Paul Coble, the board stripped two school-related items out of its consent agenda, where they could have been approved without discussion, and tabled them until the next meeting, in January. Both were second readings of school board requests to appropriate money for school design.

The Republican-led Board of Commissioners has clashed with the Democratic-led school board over which should have control over building, maintaining and ownership of schools, with commissioners saying the school board needs to be more careful how it spends taxpayer funds.

Staff writer Keung Hui contributed to this article.

Quillin: 919-829-8989

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