08/05/09 — Cox asks county to explain its motives for control

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Cox asks county to explain its motives for control

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 5, 2009 1:46 PM

Planning Board Chairman Chris Cox's questioning of county commissioners' motives for pursuing more control of some planning decisions Tuesday morning drew a stern rebuke from Commissioner John Bell.

Bell reminded Cox that commissioners not only appoint Planning Board members, but exercise oversight as well including the right to make changes. Planning Board members serve three-year staggered terms. Cox's term runs through Feb. 19, 2011.

Cox agreed, but continued unsuccessfully to force the issue and an explanation from Bell and the rest of the board.

"I'd like to ask you a question, each one of you personally -- what has the Planning Board done for you to request what you have requested today?" Cox said during the public comments portion of the session. "Have we done something? Has the Planning Board done something? Have we acted inappropriately? Have we not followed the guidelines we have in front of us as far as policy and procedure by the book? We have an attorney at every single meeting.

"So I'd like personally for each one of you to tell us as a Planning Board, we are having a meeting Tuesday night, why? What's going on? I need to be able to tell the members of my board what is going on with you taking the action that you are taking today."

Cox was speaking of action taken earlier in the meeting when Bell said he wanted commissioners to proceed with efforts to revise the county's subdivision and mobile home ordinances.

The changes would allow commissioners to have final say on site plans, similar to the authority now exercised by the Goldsboro City Council.

Commissioner Jack Best asked about handling both issues at a public hearing during the board's Sept. 15 meeting followed by a work session. That, he said, would give the Planning Board the 30 days required to review the proposals. The Planning Board also would have two meetings to discuss the issues as well, he said.

However, Commissioner Steve Keen, who is also a Planning Board member, objected saying he had just received the proposals and had not had enough time to read it, in particular the one concerning mobile home parks.

Best asked Keen if he wanted to delay further discussion of the mobile home portion until the board's next session. Keen said he did.

County Manager Lee Smith also noted that the mobile home ordinance had to go to the Health Department as well, requiring more time.

The board was unanimous in setting a public hearing for Sept. 15 at 9:15 a.m. on the proposed subdivision change.

The Planning Board, Cox said, includes very successful businessmen, a paralegal and one member who has been in the farm business for 30 years.

"Can we not make a good decision?" he said. "Do we make bad decisions? That is what I want to know. Why? What is going on with this board right here?

"I'd like an answer from each one of you so we can understand the decision you made because we need to know so we can make our decisions back to the board (of commissioners). I'd like each one, if you would, to tell the citizens of Wayne County why?"

That prompted Bell to ask Cox who had appointed him to that board.

"You guys," Cox said.

Cox agreed with Bell that meant commissioners exercise oversight of the Planning Board.

"What is your question?" Bell said

"I am asking you why you changed it," Cox said. "What have we done?"

"We have that right to make any changes," Bell started.

"But you have to tell the citizens why you are changing," Cox interjected.

"You asked a question, and I am going to answer it," Bell continued. "We have a right to make any changes that we deem necessary in the best interest of Wayne County."

Cox agreed but added, "You also have to offer to the citizens of Wayne County a reason why."

"Do you want to sit on it (Planning Board)?" Bell said.

"I am on the board," Cox said. "I have been the chairman."

"What I am trying to tell you is that we appoint you to that board and we have given you the opportunity to serve the citizens of Wayne County, and if we want to make a change to that board, we will make it," Bell said.

"I agree with you sir, but give the citizens of Wayne County a reason as for your decision to do so," Cox said. "Are you making it just for no reason? Did we do something? That is all I am asking, give us a reason."

Chairman Bud Gray ended the exchange when he told Cox his three minutes allotted for public comment was up. Cox, who had sat through the entire meeting, left.