China Grove board criticizes failure to appoint new members to zoning body

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
Salisbury Post
CHINA GROVE ó Members of the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustments gave the Board of Aldermen a public tongue lashing Tuesday night.
Zoning Board Chairwoman Lois Elliott and Vice Chairman Harry Mills berated aldermen for refusing to appoint three new members to the ZBA.
Last month, Elliott asked the Board of Aldermen to appoint three members. The board opted to wait to find more applicants.
Aldermen also cited concern about a pending legal action against the town and the ZBA by Steve Stroud, a former alderman. The ZBA ruled his home-based business is in violation of the town’s ordinances. The town has since notified Stroud to cease and desist business operations at home.
“I’m really disappointed you didn’t let us have the people we recommended,” Elliot said. She brought two of the applicants with her.
“Gentlemen, I want you to tell these citizens why you won’t appoint them.”
“This is a circus,” Mills said, “I don’t know what is going on.”
He questioned why the town hall was locked on the night the ZBA was scheduled to meet. “We had to stand out in the cold for 30 minutes.”
He went on to cite past issues between the town and the ZBA, including an effort to abolish the board nearly two years ago. “You’ve tried to kick us out. I don’t appreciate it at all.”
Mills said citizens look to the Board of Aldermen for leadership, adding, “I didn’t vote for any of you.”
He went on to suggest that some people think China Grove is “worse than East Spencer.”
“The people of China Grove need to stand up and take action,” Mills said.
Mayor Don Bringle gave a limited response. He said aldermen have agreed on a process that will include advertising to attract more applicants.
Responding to Mills, he said if members of the ZBA had told town officials of plans to meet, the town hall would have been open.
At one point, Elliott persisted in demanding the appointments, saying the board plans to meet April 22 and needs the new members.
“They won’t be appointed by the meeting,” Bringle responded.
Barbara Welter, wife of Alderman Allen Welter, is one of the three applicants.
In other business, the board agreed to interview three finalists later this month for the town manager’s job.
Initially, the board tried to schedule all three interviews, but couldn’t because of conflicts with aldermen’s schedules.
The board agreed to interview two applicants on April 22, one at 5:30 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m.
The third interview will be scheduled later.
During the discussion, acting manager Bill Pless acknowledged that he is one of the three finalists for the job.
Pless has been on the job since September, shortly after Eric Davis resigned to become city manager of Mount Holly.
Pless works for All American Associates, a Mount Airy-based municipal consulting firm which is also assisting the Board of Aldermen with the search for a new manager.