12/02/09 — Commission OKs new Planning Board rules

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Commission OKs new Planning Board rules

By Steve Herring
Published in News on December 2, 2009 12:15 PM

Wayne County commissioners refused Tuesday morning to remove wording from the new county Planning Board ordinance giving them the power to dismiss those board members, but they did agree to soften it somewhat.

However, even that failed to convince Commissioner Steve Keen, perhaps the most vocal critic of the provision, to vote for the amended ordinance.

And even though Commissioner John Bell, who supported the ordinance as originally written, made the motion to approve the revised ordinance, he also voted against the change and the ordinance.

It was the second and final vote on the proposal.

Prior to the first vote last month, Keen, who also serves on the Planning Board, attempted to amend the ordinance by removing the sentence, "Members may be removed by the board of commissioners with or without cause."

The Planning Board reviewed the ordinance last month and recommended the sentence be dropped. It also recommended that since the Planning Board does not have a budget, that any travel expense should be spelled out as coming from the Planning Department budget.

The budget recommendation was not discussed by commissioners.

Commissioner Andy Anderson said Tuesday that he knew that there had been a lot of discussion about the removal clause.

Anderson then offered an amendment to Bell's motion to replace the sentence with, "The board of commissioners may remove any member during their appointed term."

"It is simpler, sounds less inflammatory and derogatory," he said.

"That is basically the same thing, it just changes the language, right?" Commissioner Sandy McCullen asked County Attorney Borden Parker.

"It was unclear if the board had the authority (under the old ordinance) to remove a person serving a specific term," Parker said. "Mr. Anderson's amendment allows you to do that."

Keen said he thought the "with and without cause" provision was "unjust."

"I have a problem with it," he said. "I feel like everybody needs to know why they were taken off a board. I feel like they are owed, as a citizen who has served, and if something has gone wrong, how they can improve it or correct it and continue to serve. I cannot vote for this as written."

During their review, Planning Board members said inclusion of the sentence might prevent qualified people from being willing to serve. They said it also "politicizes" the planning process, making their members fearful that their actions or comments might anger commissioners and lead to their dismissal.

Parker last month told commissioners that should they decide to rewrite the provision to say removal "for cause" then they would need to spell out a list of causes that could be cited for removal.

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 Tuesday, Jack Best was elected as chairman and J.D. Evans as vice-chairman. Bell nominated Best and Mrs. McCullen nominated Evans. Keen nominated Anderson for both leadership roles.

Commissioners made no comment or took no action on a rezoning request by Cecil Bryan and Suzanne Bryan Harrison.

The Planning Board heard the request at its November meeting, but made no recommendation, meaning it came to commissioners as a favorable one.

Following questioning by commissioners, County Planner Connie Price said the planning staff had recommended denying the request.

Bryan petitioned to have 1.623 acres rezoned from Community Shopping and Residential 30 to Residential 10. The property is located on U.S. 117 South across from the American Legion building.

The request involves four lots. Three have duplex apartments on them. Bryan wants to build a triplex on the fourth.

Commissioners were concerned that the property is in a high-noise zone because of Seymour Johnson Air Force base. Price said that while the property is several miles from the base runway, extending the runway's center line would cross the property.

Base officials opposed the rezoning.

Commissioners also met in closed session with Parker for about 20 minutes to discuss acquisition of property. There was no discussion or action taken when the board returned to open session.

Commissioner Bud Gray cast the lone "no" vote on the board's consent agenda.

That portion of the agenda included leasing out three farm properties jointly owned by the county and city of Goldsboro. Gray said he voted against the consent agenda because he feels formal bids should be taken for the leases.