08/13/09 — Planning board wants hearing changed

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Planning board wants hearing changed

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 13, 2009 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Planning Board has asked the county board of commissioners to reschedule a public hearing on proposed changes to the county's subdivision ordinance from morning to evening to allow more people to attend.

Failing to convince commissioners to do so, the Planning Board Tuesday night agreed to hold its own hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at a time and place to be announced.

County Manager Lee Smith Wednesday afternoon said he had received the request and had placed it on the commissioners' agenda for next Tuesday.

"Neither (Chairman) Bud (Gray) nor I can change it," Smith said. "It has to be changed by resolution. It is up to them (commissioners) to decide what they want to do."

Commissioners last month instructed Planning Director Connie Price and county attorney Borden Parker to talk about changes to the subdivision and mobile home ordinances with an eye toward giving commissioners final authority on plat approval.

Earlier this month, commissioners set a public hearing on the subdivision ordinance at 9:15 a.m. Sept. 15 in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

Commissioners said that would give the Planning Board enough time, including two meetings, in which to discuss the proposal prior to the hearing and draft recommendations.

However, during the Planning Board's Tuesday meeting Chairman Chris Cox questioned whether the schedule provided enough time for the board to come up with a recommendation.

He also worried that it was unclear as to whether the schedule would allow time to meet a required 30-day deadline to discuss the ordinance and make recommendations to commissioners. Cox said he was concerned failure to meet the 30-day requirement could jeopardize any recommendation.

County attorney Borden Parker sought to reassure Cox that commissioners made it clear when they set the hearing that the Planning Board has plenty of time to review the proposal. He added that the hearing was set in order to give the Planning Board a chance to have two meetings.

The commissioners, he said, do not expect anything from the Planning Board prior to the September hearing.

Cox did not seem convinced.

"That is not what it says here," he said, reading from the ordinance.

"You can ask commissioners at the Tuesday meeting," Parker said.

One sticking point that cropped up Tuesday during a review of the proposed changes was the lack of a procedure to address what happens when the two boards vote differently on the same plat.

Board member Brad Wells said it was his understanding that the Planning Board would make a recommendation on plats with commissioners having the final say on approving or disapproving them.

"That is correct," Parker said.

"If we approved a subdivision tonight, a preliminary or whatever and they go to commissioners and they disapprove it then that is the end of that, correct?" Wells said.

"If the board of commissioners does not approve, then it is not approved," Parker said.

It also would be possible for the Planning Board to disapprove a plat and it be approved by commissioners, Well said.

Parker agreed.

"If we have one where the board approves it and the commissioners disapprove it there is something wrong somewhere," Wells said. "We are not reviewing it correctly or the board of commissioners isn't.

"I feel like we need a committee on the back side of this thing. If you have two sides, one opposing and one agreeing, to come back to the table, look at this thing again and see what is going on. Something is not right and we need to review it. There are taxpayers out there who have invested a lot of money to draw up these plats and plans to get approval."

Parker told Wells the Planning Board could recommend a joint meeting of the two boards.

"I would like to add to that if either board was to disapprove somebody's subdivision or anything in the ordinance I think they should give a valid reason for that disapproval," Cox said. "I think it is only fair to the landowner and developers if they get turned down that they (boards) have to have a reason for that disapproval. That goes for both boards."

At the commissioners' last meeting, Commissioner John Bell refused Cox's attempts to force him and the rest of the commissioners to explain their reasons for seeking changes in the planning ordinances.

"I can see where an appointed board being required to make public its decisions, but I think you are getting into awful quicksand if they ask it from a politician who is elected to ask him to explain his action to the public," Planning Board member David Quick said. "I just think that is asking an awful lot."

Cox suggested that if the Planning Board holds its own hearing that it be videotaped so that commissioners could see it. He said he had invited commissioners to Tuesday's meeting, but that Commissioner Andy Anderson was the only one to attend.

It was agreed that if a hearing is held that a time limit of 3-to-5 minutes be placed on how long a person could talk and that someone could not yield their time to someone else in order to give one speaker more time than he or she was allotted.

Wells and Cox questioned the urgency being given to the subdivision ordinance issue.

Cox said that it was perplexing to him that the plan "has been in place for 40 years, 40 years, and all of a sudden they want to make 40 changes without any discussion."