04/08/13 — Public hearing Tuesday on Planning Board changes

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Public hearing Tuesday on Planning Board changes

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 8, 2013 1:46 PM

A public hearing will be held May 7 at 4:15 p.m. on a proposal to restore authority to the Wayne County Planning Board and/or the planning director to approve certain minor subdivision plats.

The amendment to county's subdivision ordinance will be one of the first pieces of business taken up by Wayne County commissioners as they begin their three-month experiment with evening meetings.

The session will start with an agenda briefing at 3 p.m. followed by the meeting at 4 p.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

As proposed, the amendment would allow the county planning director to approve certain minor subdivisions of no more than two lots on a secondary road. The Planning Board would be authorized to approve other minor plats that require new easements.

Larger subdivisions would continue to come before commissioners for approval.

Commission Chairman Steve Keen asked board members if they wanted to hold the public hearing first or if they wanted to discuss it more before releasing it to the public.

Commissioner Joe Daughtery said he wanted to hear from the public first and made a motion to establish a public hearing.

During the discussion prior to the vote, Keen questioned wording in the ordinance that the planning director "may" give final approval to plats that meet certain subdivision requirements.

"Do we give that to the director that he can, or do we make it where the Planning Board see everything and approves even though it says here (the planning director) may give final approval," Keen said.

Commissioner Bill Pate suggested the wording gave the planning director a measure of flexibility. For example, if something out of the ordinary came up about a minor plat then the director had the opportunity to send it to the Planning Board, Pate said.

Also, County Attorney Borden Parker said that by the word shall meant that anything submitted would have to be approved.

"This allows him to approve it," Parker said.

It also means that he does not have to go before the Planning Board, Keen said.

County Planning Director Connie Price said he would make monthly reports to the Planning Board on what he had signed off on during the previous month.

"Those that require higher level approval, I would review it with staff and make recommendations, but it would go to the Planning Board," Price said.

Price said and his staff would continue to review the lager plats that would then go to the Planning Board for a recommendation to be sent on to commissioners for approval.

"I really don't see why we are going back and redoing this all over again," said Commissioner John Bell. "We just changed it a few years ago. If Mr. Price is doing what we are doing we are going to put Mr. Price in jeopardy where a citizen can sue him directly for a decision that he makes.

Keen asked Parker about the possibility of a lawsuit.

Anyone can be sued, Parker said.

"But I don't know that he (Price) would be putting himself personally at liable as an employee of the county," Parker said. "The county has insurance that hopefully would protect you. The employees of the county who follow the rules of the county are protected."

The motion passed 6-1 with Bell voting no.

In other planning-related issues Tuesday, no one spoke at a brief pubic hearing on proposed changes to the county's flood prevention ordinance.

The changes allow for the use of digital data and updates the ordinance to reflect the Cooperating Technical State agreement between state and FEMA in its Flood Insurance Study for Wayne County.