08/20/09 — Chairman has say on end to planning board dispute

View Archive

Chairman has say on end to planning board dispute

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 20, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County Commission Chairman Bud Gray Tuesday morning invoked the late President Harry Truman when he reminded the public, and specifically the Planning Board, that "the buck stops here."

Gray said it was regrettable that Planning Board Chairman Chris Cox believes that the commissioners' decision to take a more active hand in planning matters is a reflection on Cox's abilities or that of other Planning Board members.

That is not the case, Gray said. Rather it is, he said, that commissioners have been charged with certain responsibilities and that they are the ones who bear the responsibility of making the final decision.

In addition, Gray said commissioners know their role and hopefully Cox knows his as well.

It is a waste of time to bicker over things that are not issues, Gray said.

Gray was responding to Cox's insistence during the commissioners' Aug. 4 session that individual board members' explain their reasoning for asking 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.

"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 Aug. 4 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."

At that time, Commissioner John Bell reminded Cox that commissioners appointed the Planning Board and "if we want to make a change to that board, we will make it."

Cox countered that commissioners also have to offer an explanation to county residents.

In his comments Tuesday, Gray said commissioners receive information from county staff members, consultants and advisory boards.

"This information is received and reviewed, but ultimately the commissioners bear the responsibility of making the final decision regarding issues that come before the board and affect the county," he said. "During our last commissioners' meeting, the chairman of our Planning Board voiced displeasure over our wanting to take a more active role in the approval of subdivision plats. He seemed to think that we are unsatisfied with the performance of the Planning Board, which we are not."

The Planning Board, he added, is an advisory board, and commissioners appreciate the hard work the members put in.

"Wayne County is growing and we, as elected officials, must make sure we understand how and where the growth is occurring," Gray said. "We must make sure we make the right decisions for our county. We are the elected officials and we must do as we see fit. We come together twice a month in this meeting room to do the business of the county and we want to do that as quickly and efficiently as possible.

And differences of opinion should not get in the way of business, Gray said.

"It is not fair to the citizens of our county to spend time up here bickering over things that are not even issues. We understand what our role is and hope that our Planning Board chairman is also clear on his role, so we can move forward in a positive manner for the county."

Commissioner Steve Keen, who is also a member of the Planning Board, said he had not been privy to the letter Gray had read and as such had no prepared remarks.

He praised Cox as a dedicated and hard-working volunteer.

"He knows what he is doing," Keen said. "He is passionate about his job being a volunteer and serving Wayne County."

Planning Board members are "very concerned that we all work together." Keen said. "We want to work together. We want to follow the rules and procedures. We rely on our counsel from (county attorney) Borden Parker who is at every meeting to make sure we are in line with all procedures.

"Not one board member takes it upon himself to run or make any decisions on their own. I was not privy to the letter that he (Gray) read, and I have not prepared anything here other than to say that Mr. Cox is doing a great job. He has about a year and a half left, and I do also, but we work very hard -- all of the Planning Board members do -- and we would love to make Wayne County better. That is our job we have done the best that we can and we will continue to do the best the can we can in accordance with the Planning Boards rules and procedures that have been adopted by commissioners. I ask that we consider this conversation, a conversation of peace and humbleness and whatever else we need to do to get these all of these differences mended and let's move on."