11/30/09 — Planning board changes pending

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Planning board changes pending

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 30, 2009 1:46 PM

The second and final vote to recast the 40-year-old ordinance that created the county Planning Board is expected Tuesday morning when county commissioners meet.

If approved, it would become the third change that commissioners have made to the planning process -- all designed to give them more control.

Commissioners already have assumed final say over approval of subdivision and mobile home park plats.

Commissioners will be briefed on the agenda at 8 a.m., with the meeting following at 9 a.m. in their boardroom on the fourth floor of the county courthouse.

The Planning Board has recommended two changes to the proposal.

The first is the removal of the sentence, "Members may be removed by the board of commissioners with or without cause."

Planning Board members said inclusion of the sentence might prevent qualified people from being willing to serve on the board.

Also, they contend it "politicizes" the planning process making Planning Board members fearful that their actions or comments might anger commissioners and lead to their dismissal.

During earlier discussions, several commissioners also appeared concerned that the wording was too harsh. However, the version sent to the Planning Board retained the wording.

The issue of removal was raised because Planning Board members are appointed to a specific term making it unclear whether they could be removed, County Attorney Borden Parker said.

He said he could not find any case law that would support removal as the ordinance is now written. It was decided to spell out the process so that there would be "no questions" about it, Parker said.

Should the county decide to rewrite the provision to say removal "for cause" then it would need to spell out a list of causes that could be cited for removal, he said.

The second change recommended by the Planning Board concerns budgeting. The Planning Board does not have a budget and as such the board recommends that any travel expense should be spelled out as coming from the Planning Department budget.

Others changes in the revamped ordinance include making the Planning Board subject to the state Open Meetings Law; requiring that Planning Board studies be subject to the availability of funds appropriated by commissioners; and that the Planing Board shall not make any expenditures unless budgeted by commissioners.

In other business, Snow Hill attorney Jared E. Hammett will speak on behalf of Wayne County Citizens for Property Rights concerning the selection and routing of highways in the county.

County Manager Lee Smith said no further information had been provided to the county concerning the presentation.

Smith said he was unsure if the recent controversy over the duties and responsibilities of the Goldsboro Metropolitan Planning Organization was related to the presentation.

Commissioners also will elect a chairman and vice chairman. Bud Gray currently serves as chairman and Jack Best as vice chairman.

The board will consider a rezoning request by Cecil Bryan and Suzzane Bryan Harrison.

Bryan has petitioned for the rezoning of 1.623 acres from Community Shopping and Residential 30 to Residential 10. The property is located on the west side of U.S. 117 in the Mar Mac between Lake Avenue and Fulton Road.

Bryan wants to build a triplex apartment complex.

The Planning Board reviewed the request and passed it on to commissioners without a recommendation.