Jun. 8—LUMBERTON — The Dream Catcher project took yet another step forward Monday, propelled by a vote of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners.
The Lumbee Tribe's request to place houses on about eight acres of land on Evergreen Church Road in Burnt Swamp was made to Robeson County Community Development in 2017 and heard by the Robeson County Planning Board in November 2017, said Dixon Ivey, Jr., director of RCCD. The request went back to the Planning Board in February 2018 for the final plat approval and was approved by county commissioners in May 2018.
"However, the map was never recorded. It had been approved. The subdivision had been approved," Ivey said.
"It never got recorded and when they came back in to start construction, they had to get the map recorded so they could use deeds for the lots. By that time our subdivision ordinance had changed," he added.
The tribe had to rezone it so it could meet subdivision requirements, Ivey said.
"The infrastructure and everything is already in on this project. But like I said, they're getting ready to start building houses so they had to get the map reapproved," Ivey said.
Fifteen homes are to be built in the community. They are planned as three-bedroom, two-bath stick-built homes.
Commissioner Judy Sampson, in whose district the project is located, asked about installing fencing around the community center that existed before the project began.
"We would say that that's an added expense that would actually reduce housing for other families," said David McGirt, Lumbee Tribe construction manager.
He said one proposal for a fence along the community building and back corner could cost $19,000. McGirt also said housing prices have gone up 30% to 35% since the pandemic.
"The Tribe has already spent $56,000 on repairs to that community building. We're there to help the community and with the price of housing and the other things that's gone up, it's just — it could impact housing for other families," he said.
Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. was also at Monday's meeting, but did not directly address commissioners.
Sampson made a motion to approve the request to rezone the land from Residential Agricultural District to Residential Single Family District as long as the community building "will be fenced in."
The motion was seconded by Commissioner Tom Taylor and the request was approved without opposition.
Commissioners also voted to rezone from Residential Agricultural District to Residential Single Family District about 43 acres of land on U.S. 301 South for more housing in Union as part of the Dream Catcher Project.
"The Lumbee Tribe failed to get it recorded," Ivey said.
Bradley Locklear, Lumbee Tribe Housing director, told The Robesonian after the meeting that there are about six to eight months left to complete the project on Evergreen Church Road.
"We're pleased that the commissioners worked with us," he said.
The fencing around the building could be less expensive than anticipated, and the materials for fencing haven't been decided on yet, Locklear said.
"It's not a major issue at all," he said.
Locklear said he is glad to be able to see the project continue forward after help from commissioners.
Also approved Monday was an updated Solid Waste Ordinance that puts in place higher fines for littering.
"What we did is we incorporated the state statute and state penalties, criminal penalties," Robeson County Attorney Rob Davis said.
The ordinance sets the penalty for a first violation of G.S. 14-399 range from $250 to $2,000. The first offense of illegal dumping is a fine of $500, the second $600 and $800 for subsequent offenses.
The maximum civil penalty for littering is $5,000, and the actual penalty is to be determined by the Solid Waste director and county manager, according to the new ordinance.
The largest citation the county Solid Waste Department could have issued was $250 before the ordinance was adopted, said Gene Walters, director of Solid Waste. The ordinance doubled that number.
"I think with the Solid Waste Department and with the legal team we just want to put some teeth into this for folks to stop dumping and realize how serious it is," said Kellie Blue, Robeson County manager. "You know, and my philosophy is when, when you hit 'em in the pocket book, they'll stop leaving trash."
Robeson County Commissioner Lance Herndon said he would like to see an update to the policy concerning illegal dumping on someone else's property, in which case the property owner is not responsible, but is left with financial responsibility.
Walters said that, typically, the department waives the fee for disposal in that case when the property owner cleans up the property. In those cases property owners also are encouraged to place barricades on their property to discourage entrance by trespassers.
Herndon said he has had incidents in his district where people dump truckloads of materials on someone else's property, often someone who doesn't live nearby. The property owner is then stuck with "tremendous expense," which can include renting equipment to clean up the property, Herndon said. The commissioner wasn't referring to household trash, but items like shingles or furniture. Commissioner David Edge agreed with Herndon.
Walters said he is open to meeting with commissioners and amending the ordinance further if needed. He also told commissioners that anti-littering signs were ready, but they needed to submit locations to the Solid Waste Department for placement of the signs.
Pauline Campbell, vice chair of the commissioner board, said she has received reports of dumping on land in her district.
"I just would like for us to look at the approach," Herndon said.
"We'll certainly do that. I give you my word," Blue said.
The commissioners also voted to call in later the appointment of a representative to the Southeastern Community Action Partnership.
Blue also told commissioners to review the budget for FY2021-22 and contact her with changes before the next meeting, at which the budget can be adopted.
Also approved Monday was the request to surplus 40 handheld Viper radios by Robeson County EMS. Commissioners voted to approve the N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program Grant in the amount of $93,528 to the Robeson County Sheriff's Office. Another NCGHSP grant in the amount of $157,950 was approved for the county's DWI Treatment Court.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 21.
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]