09/09/09 — Planning Board looks at change to process for plat OK

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Planning Board looks at change to process for plat OK

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 9, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County's subdivision plat approval process would more closely mirror that used by the city of Goldsboro and county Planning Director Connie Price would wield more authority over the process should county commissioners agree to changes to the county's subdivision ordinance recommended Tuesday by the county Planning Board.

Commissioners in June instructed Price and county attorney Borden Parker to revise the ordinance with an eye toward giving commissioners final approval of all subdivision plats. Preliminary and final plats would still go to the Planning Board for its recommendations.

The proposal would closely follow the procedure used by the city with the exception of the procedure for final plats, which would be approved by commissioners. The city planning staff approves final plats after they are reviewed by the city planning board, which makes recommendations.

In addition, the original proposal would remove Price's existing authority to approve minor plats -- five lots on a secondary road or three on a private drive. The Planning Board would make recommendations on those plats, and commissioners would have the final say.

Planning Board member David Quick asked Parker if he remembered what commissioners' thinking was for that change.

Parker responded that commissioners' instructions had been to draft wording giving them final approval.

The Planning Board offered a counterproposal that Price not only continue to approve the minor plats, but that he approve all final plats as well. Price would have 30 days to act on a plat and failure to act within that time would send it to the Planning Board.

Price recommended the 30-day time limit as a means of checks and balances needed when so much authority is vested in one person.

Planning Board members did not address what would happen to the plat at that point or who would approve it.

In an interview this morning, Price said he assumed the intent would be that it would then go to commissioners for final approval.

"Once (the plat) gets past the preliminary (the commissioners) know what it is going to look like," Planning Board Chairman Chris Cox said. "They have approved the layout, and if there are any changes, (the developers) are going to have to resubmit them anyway."

Cox said Price could keep both boards updated through the regular reports he provides.

Another recommendation included a committee of three commissioners and three Planning Board members to review plats that are approved by one board, but rejected by the other.

Finally, plats would have notes added to them to indicate any proposed road corridors that might cross the property.

Cox asked board members if they would support his request for local cable channel PACC 10 to broadcast the board's public hearing held last week on the issue. Cox said such a broadcast would not cost the county and might encourage people to attend next week's public hearing. The board agreed.

Commissioners will hold their hearing on the subdivision ordinance next Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. in their boardroom on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

It was not the first time the idea of a joint committee and appeal process had been discussed.

Planning Board member Brad Wells renewed his call for the review process, which he had first suggested at the board's August meeting.

"We really need a committee or set up between commissioners and the Planning Board members that we can review in event we have one approve and the other disapprove or vice versa," Wells said.

Wells also questioned whether something similar would be possible for commissioners sitting as the Board of Adjustments.

Price said that could not be done because the Board of Adjustments is "a quasi-judicial body." However, its ruling may be appealed to Superior Court, he said.

Parker asked Wells about the committee's makeup and asked if three members from each board would be in order. Planning Board members agreed with Parker.

Parker forewarned the board not to be surprised that the final wording of the recommendation would not be exactly what was said.

It should read "if they are inclined to approve or disapprove because once they approve it is approved," Parker said.

"Basically what Mr. Wells is saying is that if we turn down a subdivision for some reason that we say what that reason is... and if commissioners deny a subdivision that the Planning Board has approved that they have to have a reason," Cox said. "Then it would go to the committee."

"I think it needs to be stipulated that the Planning Board gives its reasoning for our approval or disapproval," Quick said.

Cox added that, in his opinion, in order for commissioners to deny a plat approved by the Planning Board that has met the criteria then commissioners would have had to have found something overlooked by the Planning Board.