08/13/09 — Smith told Price to hold off on hearings

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Smith told Price to hold off on hearings

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

Wayne County Planning Director Connie Price might have been hesitant Tuesday night to say who told him not to schedule community meetings to discuss zoning, as had been ordered by the county Planning Board.

But County Manager Lee Smith had no such problem.

"I told him," Smith said Wednesday.

The issue came up after Planning Board member Steve Keen reminded fellow board members that they had agreed to hold a series of public meetings starting with one on the U.S. 70 Bypass interchange at Wayne Memorial Drive. The meetings were to gather public input and interest in zoning.

Keen asked Price if he had scheduled the meetings and Price replied he had been told not to but declined to say who ordered him to hold off.

At issue, Smith said, is the danger of zoning being confused with a multitude of other issues currently facing commissioners.

In addition, county commissioners need to be aware of what the Planning Board would be sending out beforehand, he said. Smith said it was not an attempt to censor the Planning Board, but rather to allow commissioners to be aware of what was going on when people began calling about the meeting.

The Planning Board's first attempt at having a zoning meeting earlier this year was the victim of such confusion, he said.

The original concept was to have a series of meetings across the county starting in the areas along U.S. 70 west at Rosewood and the U.S. 70 Bypass and Wayne Memorial Drive interchange.

A brewing controversy over the Goldsboro Municipal Planning Organization erupted prior to the start of the meetings. The meetings were canceled out of concern that the issue of zoning would be lost in the confusion. Conditions are ripe for the same problems to develop again, Smith said.

"I am concerned there are a lot of issues out there," Smith said.

He cited the lingering MPO uproar, possible changes in the subdivision and mobile home ordinances and zoning.

"There are a lot of irons in the fire," he said. "I said (to Price) let's be clear (about the issues). I am telling you not to do this now. Let's get these other issues out of the way and settled.

"I have no authority over the Planning Board, but I do over the planning staff."

There has been a lot of "mixing" of the issues, he said. As such, he added, it is important to get good information to people and not waste their time.

"They need to be educated on the subject matter," he said. "It is as simple as that. Also, the commissioners need to at least know what is going on. They are going to get calls and they are going to be in the dark. I am telling you right now we need to keep the issues separated."