08/11/09 — Zones of authority: Planning board recommends, but ultimately it's up to commissioners

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Zones of authority: Planning board recommends, but ultimately it's up to commissioners

Planning Board Chairman Chris Cox wants to know why -- all of the sudden -- the Wayne County commissioners are keeping a little closer eye on the decisions concerning, and the direction of, the county planning process.

The answer should be obvious to anyone who has raised a teenager -- or who has been one -- control.

The county Planning Board chairman has been, let's say, a little aggressive lately, doing a lot of pronouncing and a whole lot of posturing -- even making insinuations that the county commissioners are trying to take over the board and to eliminate its powers altogether.

And he has not been alone, either.

He and Commissioner Steve Keen have made quite a stir recently, especially with regard to a rezoning request filed by Keen -- and his project manager, Cox -- to develop a piece of property just west of Goldsboro.

There have been a lot of words thrown around in the last few weeks -- and not all of them have been very nice.

Now, back to the analogy.

What happens when someone who is supposed to be answering to a higher authority decides to feel his or her oats and stretch the boundaries a bit. You have to rein them in, right? Remind them who is ultimately in charge.

And that, Mr. Cox, is what the county commissioners are likely doing, or should be doing -- reminding the Planning Board that they are appointed members of a body overseen by the county commissioners -- who have been charged by the voters of Wayne County with overseeing the direction of the county's future.

Now, that does not imply that there is anything going on with the Planning Board or that anyone is suggesting that there is a reason to keep a closer eye on what is being done. It also does not mean that any of this controversy and consternation have anything to do with Keen's recent rezoning request.

And it does not give the commissioners the right to be unreasonable -- just for spite.

But having the commissioners take an active role in the planning process is how this is supposed to be done -- the board makes recommendations, but the commissioners make the final decision. And that is how it should be.

And, in this case, the commissioners should have had a little more say.

Keen is a county commissioner -- and his fellow commissioners wanted to make double sure they followed the rules -- both because of fairness and because of the message it will send to future builders and developers who might not be as responsible as Keen.

They crossed their T's and dotted their I's -- and in the end had some concerns about the project -- and they expressed them.

That is what we hired them to do -- to look down the road to see not only the immediate benefits of a project, but the possible consequences as well.

Keen has said that his only goal is to develop a piece of land he and his family recently acquired -- and that his primary responsibility of taking care of this county's interests is still his top priority. And there is no reason to believe otherwise.

And that is why Mr. Cox and Mr. Keen need to stay out of the Planning Board discussions regarding any development issues they have a stake in -- and Mr. Keen should consider offering his talents in another arena -- at least for now.

And the Planning Board should continue to work with the commission to make rules and decisions that are in the best interest of the whole county.

Published in Editorials on August 11, 2009 11:51 AM