Officials debate curb ordinance

Johnny Woodard Staff Writer

September 25, 2013

LAURINBURG — Laurinburg officials are pondering whether the city's strict curb and gutter requirements contribute to its lack of population growth.
The city council since 2008 has considered putting a moratorium on the city's curb and gutter ordinance, which requires all new city developments to install the feature at the developer's expense. Designed to control erosion and the flow of water, installation can cost over $20 per linear foot.
“That has been the debate for a while,” said City Planner Brandi Deese. “And this was a hot topic a year ago, with some talk about whether the requirements are actually inhibiting our subdivisions from developing.”
Mayor Tommy Parker has said that anything which curbs the city's growth should be avoided — the decline of the city's population from .5 percent from 2000 to 2012, he said, has influenced businesses to look elsewhere.
“They're overlooking us now because the population is not growing inside the city limits,” Parker said.
He also said “islands of curb and gutter” being created by the ordinance, and questioned whether sections of empty roadway that connect grandfathered neighborhoods would be developed if the curb and gutter restriction was lifted.
“As it is now, the garbage trucks are driving those roads, going the same number of miles every day, and the water pipe runs through there, but we get no revenue for it,” Parker said. “And there's not a great inventory of existing houses here now that are modern and new, and until you get them you're not going to have much growth.”
But when Deese and Public Utilities Director Stacey McQuage approached the city council for guidance on the matter on Monday, the council said a problem didn't exist.
“If we were getting evidence of real opportunity being lost because of the requirement, I would probably think differently, but until I hear of something like that, I think … that's one of those things that is just part of city life,” said Councilman Drew Williamson. “And the look is aesthetically good, also.”
Whether they limit growth or not, the requirements have led to some inconsistency in the appearance of the town, according to McQuage. Certain city neighborhoods annexed by the city in 1995 were grandfathered in and exempted from the requirements, like most developments off Blues Farm Road — but new developments inside those grandfathered areas are required to have curb and guttering.
“We've put in a little curb and gutter on one little side street that comes out right to strip pavement (off Purcell Street) and that looks awkward,” McQuage said.
Deese and McQuage told the city council that they could amend the current ordinance to allow for installation of curb and gutter on a case-by-case basis, as determined by an engineer.
Similar ordinances have been successful in other communities, Deese said.
“Then you're leaving it just up to judgment,” said Councilman J.D. Willis, who said that if changes are to be made, they should be “clean” and objective.
Councilman Curtis Leak warned that lifting the curb and gutter requirements could actually cost the city money in the long run.
“Two things can happen: They can pay for curb and gutter as they develop it or wait 10 or 15 years down the road when those people living on the roads petition the city that we go and put them in a road after the road is worn out and torn up, then we have to go up there and pay to curb and gutter their road,” Leak said.
“Does the city want to pay now or pay later?”