Editorial: Bigger plans for board

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 24, 2007

When a government board has the word “planning” in its name, it makes a great deal of sense for it to take a front-line position in helping to develop longterm strategies for coping with growth. Hence, there should be strong support for the Rowan County Planning Board shouldering a lot of the heavy lifting as the county begins looking anew at what sort of long-range land-use plan it will adopt in the future.

During the Planning Board’s Monday meeting, County Commission Chairman Arnold Chamberlain said the planning panel could expect to be tasked with a central role in the land-use process, whatever scope it has or whatever name it may go by. There’s ample precedent for that. The board already deals with many zoning and other regulatory issues; its members have expertise in those areas. More importantly, by virtue of their experience in working with the planning staff to assess the impact of new subdivisions, new businesses or expansions, rezoning requests or other regulatory issues, they’re highly aware that implementing a workable plan is much harder than simply coming up with concepts on a map.

They have real-life experience in dealing with many of the issues germane to growth-management plans and mechanisms. In weighing the competing interests often involved in rezoning issues, they and the planning staff also have to grapple with the difficult job of balancing the interests of individual landowners against potential impacts on the surrounding community.

The board has an existing committee structure that lends itself to researching the many aspects of growth, as well as looking at different geographical areas of Rowan County. That brings us to another point: The board has functioned well with 11 members who bring diverse viewpoints to the meeting table, and it shouldn’t be shrunk. While some of the county’s many appointive boards might not suffer from downsizing, the planning board has functioned well at its current strength. And if it’s going to take on more duties in the future, as seems likely, it certainly wouldn’t be a good idea to reduce its workforce.