08/19/09 — Flurry of motions shows commissioners divided on local planning issues

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Flurry of motions shows commissioners divided on local planning issues

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 19, 2009 1:46 PM

Five motions, all with different split outcomes Tuesday morning, underscored the rift between Wayne County Commissioners where the county Planning Board is concerned.

The motions came during a work session to discuss some commissioners' call to amend the county subdivision ordinance with an eye toward giving commissioners final say over subdivision plats.

Commissioners had asked county Planning Director Connie Price and county attorney Borden Parker to draft language that would give them final approval of subdivision plats.

Currently, preliminary and final plats are submitted to the county's planning staff, with approval up to the Planning Board.

Under the proposed change, the Planning Board would make recommendations on plats, and final approval would rest with commissioners.

A 6-1 vote established a committee of three commissioners, one Planning Board member, Price and Parker to review the county's planning ordinance.

Commissioner Steve Keen, who also serves on the Planning Board, voted "no."

The motion was offered by Commissioner Jack Best, who said the request was made "so we can understand who is in charge and who is not in charge and whose duties are what."

Best said that would allow commissioners to have something prior to Nov. 17 when a work session is to be held on any proposed changes to the ordinance. Best said he would like the committee's findings back to the full board prior to Nov. 1 so that commissioners would have time to study it.

Keen was unsuccessful in his attempt to set up a joint meeting between the Planning Board, the commissioners and the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization.

"I don't want to exclude anyone," he said.

The Planning Board and MPO have been at odds over the past several months over transportation issues.

By a 4-3 vote, commissioners denied a request by the Planning Board to reschedule a public hearing on the subdivision issue from a morning to evening session that Planning Board member said would encourage more public attendance.

The hearing remains scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 9:15 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

"We are requesting that we have an evening meeting so we can bring in new people who are in agriculture, who are farmers, there are a lot of tobacco farmers right now who are in the fields, and we feel like in mainly rural Wayne County these workers cannot get to a 9:15 a.m. meeting," said Commissioner Steve Keen, who is also a member of the Planning Board. "Maybe an afternoon meeting or two meetings ... I think it is crucial now more than ever we cannot afford to be uninformed.

"It is important for the people, all of the people of Wayne County to know how these committees are working."

Commissioners J.D. Evans, who made the motion to leave the time as is, Jack Best, Bud Gray and John Bell voted "yes." Keen and Commission-ers Sandra McCullen and Andy Anderson voted against the motion.

The Planning Board at its meeting last week agreed that if commissioners refused to change the time that the Planning Board would hold its own hearing Sept. 1.

Following Tuesday's meeting, Price said that hearing would be held Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. in the commissioners' meeting room.

Holding the meeting there will make it easier to record the session for commissioners' benefit, he said.

Also during the meeting, Planning Board Chairman Chris Cox had voiced concerns about a 30-day period in which the board has to review the proposed changes to the subdivision ordinance. Cox and other Planning Board members worried that failure to submit recommendations in time would mean that commissioners would consider that the Planning Board had approved the proposal.

County attorney Borden Parker sought to assure the Planning Board that commissioners did not expect any recommendations prior to Sept. 15.

On Tuesday, Best offered a motion to clarify the timetable that no report was expected prior to the hearing and that not having a report prior to that time would not deem it approved by the Planning Board. Keen was the only commissioner to vote against the motion.

Keen later offered his own motion in an attempt to delay action on the subdivision changes. Commissioners, he said, should look at reviewing the county's more-than-40-year-old planning ordinance before they do anything else.

His motion failed 5-1. Anderson, who said the county is getting "the cart before the horse" did not vote.

Anderson did not vote on the next motion either, but did not say why.

The motion was made by Best to hold a public hearing at 9:15 a.m. on Oct. 20 on proposed changes to the county's mobile home park ordinance. The Planning Board and Health Board must review the proposals. The motion passed 6-0.