County Planning Board debates comment changes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.comNewly installed members of the Rowan County Planning Board wasted little time in suggesting changes.
Rod Whedbee suggested moving the public comment portion of the meeting from the end to the beginning.
That touched off a debate with some veteran board members warning against the change.
Ann Furr noted the board has a 90-minute meeting time limit and must vote to extend the meeting. Furr suggested changing the public comment period would open the door to people speaking at the start and then later during public hearings.
Larry Wright, another new member, supported public comment at the beginning, saying it lets the public know the board wants to hear from them.
Furr noted that John Linker instituted the public comment several years ago when he was chairman, adding it works best at the end of the meeting.
In the middle of that discussion, Vice Chairman Mac Butner suggested changing the format of how public hearings are handled. Butner favored letting all those “for” an issue speak, and then those “opposed,” rather than going in random order.
That touched off a heated debate with Chairman Terry Hill and Linker suggesting grouping speakers could end up intimidating some who might be outnumbered.
Hill agreed that such a grouping would keep some people who might be ill at ease or outnumbered from speaking at the hearings.
Butner withdrew his motion to make changes, agreeing with Hill to wait until next month to decide on possible changes.
At the outset of the meeting, planning staff and Hill thanked the outgoing members, Carl Ford, Edwin Hammill, Barbara Lomax and Donna Poteat. All except Hammill, who didn’t attend, were recognized with plaques.
Planning Director Ed Muire cited the work in which the outgoing members had been involved. “Thank you for what you do,” Muire said.
The new members, Wright, Whedbee, Jack Fisher and Steve Poteat, joined in unanimously re-electing Hill as chairman and Butner as vice chairman.
Later in the meeting, Ford said he learned a lot while serving on the planning board, including that mini-warehouses stirred up a bigger fuss than land use planning.
Ford, who is now chairman of the county commission, also added a warning to the board, saying the attendance policy will be enforced.
“If you miss three meetings you’re off, ” Ford said.
Hill praised Ford for his service and said he hopes the commissioners will support the Planning Board.
Near the outset of the meeting, Commissioner Raymond Coltrain urged the board members to think of what Rowan County should look like in 50 years and use that as a guide for their decisions.

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