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Salisbury Planning Board discusses reduction in members

By Mark Wineka

Salisbury Post

Should the Salisbury Planning Board be nine members instead of the current 12?

Board members discussed that question Tuesday and, in the end, failed to reach a consensus other than to talk about it some more.

Chairman Brian Miller referred the matter to the board’s rules committee.

The city planning staff had asked the board to consider reducing its membership to nine members as a goal for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Salisbury City Council appoints Planning Board members. Any recommendation from the board about reducing its membership would have to be approved by council.

The planners approved other goals for 2007-2008:

* To give council a proposed Land Development Ordinance by this spring. It will represent a complete rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance. The number of zoning districts in the new ordinance would be cut in half, from 36 to 18 districts.

* To give council a North Main Street Area Plan. Salisbury architect Gray Stout has taken input from residents and is trying to come up with a visual concept for the neighborhood. That vision will be shared with residents in the near future for more feedback.

* To start a new Statesville Boulevard (U.S. 70) corridor plan.

* To study industrial areas and corridors, beginning in the first quarter of 2008.

* To give council a comprehensive bicycle plan by the end of 2007.

* To conduct a minimum of three training sessions for board members.

The Salisbury Planning Board has been 12 members since March 1969.

Senior Planner Preston Mitchell said city staff has been looking at the possibility of reducing the membership to nine for about a year. Staff with Centralina Council of Governments, a regional planning agency, supports the proposal.

Concord has a nine-member planning board; Statesville, nine; Lexington, 11 and Hickory, 11.

Mitchell emphasized there was no urgency to the suggested goal of reducing the membership, nor was the staff trying to force the board into a decision.

Miller said he was ambivalent about nine or 12 members.

Lou Manning and Dr. Kelly Vance said fewer members might be more efficient. Sometimes discussions can be cumbersome with 12 members, Vance said.

A nine-member board also could allow for deeper discussions at board meetings, leading to a reduction in committee meetings, Vance said.

Manning agreed with a comment that a nine-member board might translate to more committed members.

Valarie Stewart said she saw a lot of opinions as a positive on a 12-member board.

“I think that’s a good thing,” she said. “It means representation for everyone is taking place. We need different opinions.”

Albert Stout said he needed more time to consider the question. Most Planning Board members first heard about the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting.

Dr. Mark Behmer said while a 12-member board means more work for council in recruiting Planning Board members, it also helps to have a good supply of people for the board’s extensive committee work.

On the Statesville Boulevard corridor study, some board members expressed concern that the state’s widening of the road could be finished before a new development plan was in place.

“I think that should be the No. 1 priority,” Stout said.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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