Commission will assess Planning Board's responsibilities
By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 17, 2009 1:46 PM
Wayne County Commissioners voted 5-2 Tuesday to review the duties of the county Planning Board with an eye toward taking a more active role themselves in planning.
Commissioners Andy Anderson and Steve Keen voted against the proposal, saying they believed the motion by Commissioner John Bell would open the door to commissioners taking over the planning process.
Bell said his intent is not to do away with the Planning Board but to give commissioners more say-so in approving site plans for development, the same as the Goldsboro City Council.
Bell said he based his motion on earlier comments by Anderson concerning the need to review the county's decades-old planning ordinance.
Anderson agreed that a review is needed, but said Bell's motion seemed to set commissioners up to take control of the Planning Board.
The issue of commissioners' involvement in planning was not on their agenda, but was brought up by Bell during the commissioners' comments portion of the meeting.
Bell's motion called for county attorney Borden Parker and Planning Director Connie Price to "get together and present the plan to us getting county commissioners more actively involved in approving plot plans."
"Is this necessary at this point in time?" Anderson asked. "We are (already) talking about looking at the planning ordinance."
"Does everybody understand the motion?" Chairman Bud Gray asked.
"No sir, I do not," Keen said.
Bell repeated his motion.
"Are you asking for a review of policies and procedures?" Commissioner Sandra McCullen asked.
"I am asking for everything," Bell replied.
"I think Mr. Bell's motion is to do exactly what you (Anderson) indicated," Commissioner J.D. Evans said.
Keen asked Parker if state law requires counties and municipalities to have planning boards.
"They authorize them," Parker answered.
Parker said he would need to "look at the law," but that he did not see Bell's initiative "as a motion to do away with the Planning Board."
Asked if his intent is for commissioners to take over the job of the Planning Board, Bell replied, "No it's not. It is not to do away with the Planning Board. The Planning Board will still have its job. It will still be making recommendations to county commissioners and we will take a look at whatever the recommendations are.
"If that is what the county attorney and planner bring back and if we approve that part then we would approve the overall site plans."
"They (the Planning Board), in my opinion, they would still have to vote on a recommendation to bring back to us. The (planning) board would make recommendations back to the county commissioners for the county commissioners' approval," Bell said.
Currently, the Planning Board makes recommendations to the commissioners on zoning issues, but only the commissioners can rezone property. The Planning Board does not need commissioners' approval to approve site plans for development.
"It may be they (commissioners) will just do so (approve) say for a site plan for something over a 10-acre site or a one-acre site. There are a lot of different things and Connie and I will just have to get together," Parker said.
"The policies they are governed by were written back in 1966 and they just need some updates on some things that we have been looking at over the years. This just didn't happen in the past few days. We have been thinking about this for the past couple of years or more about updating them. I brought it up today just so we could get it started of taking a look at it," Bell said
"Mr. Anderson has been talking for two years that we need update the policies. I just thought this was a good time to get started on it now. There is no particular reason."
Anderson said he did not like the wording of the motion.
"If the motion had been today to just go back and review the ordinance I would have never objected. But the way it came across to me is that we want to take control.
"Now, do you want to take control of it or do you want to review it and look at what the procedures are and see if you want to take control or do you just want to change some things? That is where I had a misunderstanding. I am not against it necessarily. I just want not to jump into the fire all at one time. Let's find out what we want to do and go from there.
"I want to see us study and review it and have a consensus on what we want to do about it. It is like taking away the power of the Planning Board to a degree. We are saying we are going to take over and I don't think we want to do that necessarily. We don't have time to do all the stuff they do."
In related action, the board appointed David Quick to the seat on the Planning Board left vacant when Muriel Mareday stepped down in early March. Anderson voted against the appointment saying that how it was handled "goes against procedure."
Normally, potential appointees are announced at one meeting, but not acted on until the following board session.
Tuesday, however, Commissioner Jack Best said that the seat has been vacant too long and needed to be filled.