The Warren County Zoning Board of Adjustment was forced to delay a hearing to address an appeal by Lake Gaston resident Mike Hairston related to permits for several buildings at Hubquarter Landing after a perceived conflict of interest left the board without a quorum to proceed.

Hairston claims that the county’s former Planning & Zoning administrator, Ken Krulik, exceeded his authority by issuing building permits without seeking the approval of a modified site plan for the Warren County Board of Adjustment. Hairston claimed that by doing so, Krulik approved modifications to site plans when he did not have the legal authority to do so.

Hairston’s appeal states, “We appeal the decision that Mr. Krulik made to approve zoning/building permits changing the number, size and location of Hubquarter Landing buildings 108 without a Board of Adjustment approved modified site plan.”

In his appeal, Hairston indicates that site plans for Hubquarter Landing were approved by the county Zoning Board of Adjustment in 2007.

The appeal also refers to a UNC School of Government blog entry related to development decisions that defines administrative decisions as those that are “based on clear, objective standards in the ordinance” and can be made without a hearing by a staff person, an appointed board or an elected board. Hairston contends that Krulik made decisions that went beyond the administrative capacity.

Krulik, who retired earlier in the fall, responded with a letter that he described as being in response to emails sent to the county from the Happy Valley Subdivision Homeowner’s Association and residents listed as Hairston, Joe Zeno, Russell and Linda Dale, Harold and Lisa Wetzel, Williams Bowling, Robert and Susan Chapman, Scott Carpenter, Maria and Frank Luorno, and Martin Hill.

In his letter Krulik asks for clarification about whether the appeal concerns a determination he made in 2021. He described his determination as follows “This determination was that the modifications to the original site plan — decreasing the number of buildings in the subdivision (while keeping the same use and number of units) are not significant enough to go before the BOA and do not required a BOA approved modification to the original conditional use permit.”

In a memo to County Manager Vincent Jones, county attorney Hassan Kingsberry and Director of Community Economic Development Charla Duncan, Krulik notes that concerns about the Hubquarter Landing townhouse development were raised in June and July of this year, and that the area under construction was across the cove of Happy Valley Subdivision.

In the memo, Krulik states the following: “It is my position that there is no substantial change to the approved development per the 2007 conditional use permit (CU) approved by the Warren County Board of Adjustment prior to 9/4/07 (and no secondary impacts from the current construction).”

In the memo, Krulik expresses the position that the position of some buildings was shifted for topographical reasons, the lay of the land. He noted that the developer addressed these concerns by removing one building and adding one unit to another, while taking away one unit on another. Krulik expressed the position that these modifications did not result in a substantial change.

“No increase in density, units or building occurred,” his memo states.

Krulik further expresses the position that shifting Tranquility Lane to access three buildings was minimal and does not constitute a substantial change.

While most matters coming before the Board of Adjustment require a majority vote, county attorney Kingsberry explained at Monday night’s meeting that a four-fifths majority vote would be needed in the case of the appeal. Therefore, having a quorum would be essential to proceeding with the hearing.

As the hearing was about to move forward, questions arose about whether board member Joe Zena should recuse himself because he lives in the same subdivision as Hairston. Kingsberry recommended that Zeno recuse himself from participating.

Zeno said that he did not believe there was a conflict of interest because the hearing would address the application of the zoning ordinance.

Board Chairman Glenn Forsythe said that the problem was the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“We are supposed to be an impartial board,” he said.

After more discussion, the board voted to recuse Zeno from participating, meaning that there was no longer the quorum need to have a four-fifths majority vote.

The hearing was recheduled for 6 p.m. on Jan. 24.