Mayor hopeful: Use zoning to block sub-$300K ‘starter homes’ | The Enterprise
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Mayor hopeful: Use zoning to block sub-$300K ‘starter homes’

Posted on July 21, 2021

Updated on July 26, 2021

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This is the fifth of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard said with the right leadership, Spring Hope could be like Wake Forest or Cary.

Contributed photo

This is the fifth of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard said with the right leadership, Spring Hope could be like Wake Forest or Cary.

This is the first of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard describes the Walnut Court subdivision as “dumpy.” The Enterprise obtained the messages through a public records request for texts to town Commissioner Brent Cone.

Contributed photo

This is the first of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard describes the Walnut Court subdivision as “dumpy.” The Enterprise obtained the messages through a public records request for texts to town Commissioner Brent Cone.

The third of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope is shown above. In this text, Town Commissioner Brent Cone explains to Pritchard that most homes in Spring Hope are zoned for 8,000-square-foot lots.

Contributed photo

The third of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope is shown above. In this text, Town Commissioner Brent Cone explains to Pritchard that most homes in Spring Hope are zoned for 8,000-square-foot lots.

The fourth of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on Spring Hope housing is shown. In this text, Pritchard explains he doesn't want to see new $200,000 homes and residents earning $44,000 a year.

Contributed photo

The fourth of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on Spring Hope housing is shown. In this text, Pritchard explains he doesn't want to see new $200,000 homes and residents earning $44,000 a year.

This is the second of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard provides photos of a two possible futures for Spring Hope, a strip mall and a vibrant downtown.

Contributed photo

This is the second of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard provides photos of a two possible futures for Spring Hope, a strip mall and a vibrant downtown.

This is the fifth of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard said with the right leadership, Spring Hope could be like Wake Forest or Cary.

Contributed photo

This is the fifth of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard said with the right leadership, Spring Hope could be like Wake Forest or Cary.

This is the first of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard describes the Walnut Court subdivision as “dumpy.” The Enterprise obtained the messages through a public records request for texts to town Commissioner Brent Cone.

Contributed photo

This is the first of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard describes the Walnut Court subdivision as “dumpy.” The Enterprise obtained the messages through a public records request for texts to town Commissioner Brent Cone.

This is the first of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard describes the Walnut Court subdivision as “dumpy.” The Enterprise obtained the messages through a public records request for texts to town Commissioner Brent Cone.
The third of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope is shown above. In this text, Town Commissioner Brent Cone explains to Pritchard that most homes in Spring Hope are zoned for 8,000-square-foot lots.
The fourth of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on Spring Hope housing is shown. In this text, Pritchard explains he doesn't want to see new $200,000 homes and residents earning $44,000 a year.
This is the second of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard provides photos of a two possible futures for Spring Hope, a strip mall and a vibrant downtown.
This is the fifth of five screenshots showing July 8 text messages from mayoral candidate Kyle Pritchard on the subject of housing in Spring Hope. In this text, Pritchard said with the right leadership, Spring Hope could be like Wake Forest or Cary.

lkay@springhopeenterprise.com | 252-265-8117

Pritchard

Pritchard

SPRING HOPE — A mayoral candidate envisions a future utopia for the town many current residents and civil servants couldn’t afford.

Kyle Pritchard, an insurance company owner, said he only wants to see $300,000 new homes and incoming residents who earn more than $60,000 annually.

“Some people see it as gentrification, but it’s not,” Pritchard told The Enterprise in an interview last week. “It’s not pushing people out, it’s controlling new housing.”

Gentrification is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the process whereby the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier people moving in, improving housing and attracting new businesses, typically displacing current inhabitants in the process.”

During a July 6 public hearing, Pritchard voiced his opposition to a rezoning request that will allow developers to build a new subdivision with homes in the $200,000 range. The town board approved the request, changing the property’s zoning designation to R-8, meaning residential properties with 8,000-square-foot lots.

TEXT MESSAGES

Pritchard followed up his objections to the change in July 8 text messages to Commissioner Brent Cone.

“If you let more starter homes (2,000 sq ft with $200,000 price tag) come in then low end strip malls is what will follow,” Pritchard texted. “If you only allow high end growth to town then high end development comes to town. It’s way bigger picture than just the lot size. And you say businesses are controlled by zoning and ordinances but what high end shop is going to want to come to a town with an average income of $44,000? If you allow those homes you’re going to get more $44,000 earners and more low end business developers.”

The average annual starting salary for town employees, not counting the manager and police chief, is below $44,000: The tax collector and customer service positions start at $42,000; town clerk and finance officer, $32,000; police lieutenant, $40,000; police corporal, $38,300 and police officers $34,000, according to information town officials provided on July 20.

Pritchard texted Cone that the proposed subdivision would end up “dumpy” like Walnut Court, a subdivision with homes in the $100,000 range.

“That’s a really bad decision,” Pritchard texted. “It will get abused. It will be a dumpy Walnut Ct in 10 years. We can’t just accept low hanging fruit. Want to be a miniature Jacksonville nc or a miniature Water Forest? Wake* not water.”

In a July 19 email to The Enterprise, Pritchard said he didn’t mean to disparage Walnut Court.

“Walnut Court has aged well and still looks really good,” Pritchard wrote. “I lived in Walnut Court for several years and have friends and family that live there now. The larger lot sizes and trees that were left standing, give the residents room to breathe and enjoy the outdoors. The new subdivision can have lots as small as 1/8th acre, which is just a fraction of some lots in Walnut Court. Walnut Court is a nice, quaint, rural neighborhood and I want the new subdivision to be just as nice.”

Cone texted back to Pritchard that they both live in R-8 zoning and that most of the town is zoned R-8.

Walnut Court is zoned R-8, according to town officials.

Pritchard texted Cone that people living in homes built by local developer Erader Mills were bringing down the town.

“Those houses Mills built on 581 and Pine are a perfect example of what will happen,” Pritchard texted. “That’s a lack of vision I’m trying to help people see. Those homes are now full of people not taking care of them, they’re going downhill quick. And it’s taking the town down further with it.”

In the email to The Enterprise, Pritchard pivoted, explaining that he blames the developer, not the residents, for the homes’ condition.

“I have spoken to a couple homeowners, and they are very concerned about costly repairs and maintenance that their home needs in just a short amount of time, repairs and maintenance that should not cloud the dream of home ownership,” Pritchard wrote.

Mills builds houses in the $100,000 to $175,000 price range in Nash County, including in Spring Hope. He couldn’t be reached for comment in time for this story.

Pritchard — who said he earned $45,000 in 2019 and purchased his home on Nash Street last year for $275,000 — acknowledged he falls below his new resident expectations.

“I personally could not afford a brand-new home of the size we wanted, so we bought an older used home,” Pritchard said. “It’s the choice millions of Americans are faced with, and hundreds of Spring Hope citizens have to make also.”

PUBLIC RECORDS

The Enterprise obtained Pritchard’s text messages through a public records request filed with town officials after this reporter learned about the texts by overhearing a conversation between commissioners prior to a July 12 town meeting.

Pritchard maintains he doesn’t believe his text messages are public record because he was a private citizen at the time, Cone used his personal smartphone and the town attorney wasn’t involved. None of those three factors determine whether the North Carolina Public Records Act applies to the messages.

Any electronic communication with a public official, even on a personal device, is public record, according to a blog post on open government by Kara Millonzi, a professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government in Chapel Hill.

“Texts may be public records even if they are sent or received on an employee’s or official’s personal device. It is the content of the messages that is determinative,” Millonzi noted.

State public records laws are clear that any communication to a public official that discusses public business is part of the public record, according to Amanda Martin, general counsel for the North Carolina Press Association.

Town Attorney Mark Edwards reviewed the text messages and approved their release. He was copied on a July 15 email from town officials fulfilling The Enterprise’s request.

Pritchard said town officials erroneously or accidentally released the texts in a series of early morning July 18 posts on his Facebook campaign page that have since been removed.

Pritchard promised that as mayor, he wouldn’t release any messages sent to him by private citizens. He listed hypothetical examples that clearly qualify as public records, but said he would keep those communications confidential.

“You should be able to tell me anything in confidence that it will stay between us,” Pritchard said. “...as a private citizen, you will never have to worry about what you send me ending up in the local newspaper.”

Comments posted by Pritchard’s Facebook followers indicated that they believed his texts were public record.

In an email to The Enterprise on July 18, Pritchard suggested the texts could be fake.

“I personally have gotten screenshots of text message communications but when reviewed on the phone it became apparent the screenshots had either been edited or fabricated as the words didn’t match what was on the phone,” Pritchard said, adding that he’s seen a situation where someone sent text messages to his or her own phone under someone else’s name.

In a July 20 interview, Pritchard ultimately acknowledged that he authored the texts, but he erroneously maintained that they aren’t public records. 

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