The committee included 2 members of the Planning Board, the 2 aldermen who were appointed as Planning Board liaisons (myself and Mary Ellen Poole), the City Manager and the Director of Planning. The committee came up with a number of recommended changes to the current procedures in the UDO. A few of the key changes were not agreed upon by the Planning Board members of the committee, but were endorsed by the 2 aldermen. When the full Planning Board reviewed the proposed changes they disagreed with most of them because they felt it limited their authority. Please keep in mind that the Planning Board has no official authority because they are an advisory board to the Board of Aldermen. The vote when the aldermen reviewed the proposed changes was 3 to 3 on the most critical changes, and the mayor broke the tie by voting in favor of the Planning Board's position.
The question that lingers is: Why did the mayor form the committee if he rejected the most important changes? Again, as I did with the mayor's violation of the Board of Aldermen Rules and Procedures in my previous post, I will defer to the words of the State Port Pilot and their editorial in the September 8, 2010 issue.
The State Port Pilot, Southport, NC, Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Policy issues remain
Those who are pleased that procedures in place for the Southport Planning Board will remain unchanged should not treat last month’s tie-breaking vote to keep them the same as some sort of victory.
Political power and wins by majority are not what this issue is about. At least, it shouldn’t be. What is at issue with the board’s policies is whether they are effective, efficient, up-to-date with the times, and conducive to reviewing and recommending development proposed in the city.
That is in fact the role of the planning board: to give more eyes to a proposal and advise the board of aldermen accordingly. That the aldermen felt there was need to revise how the board goes about that meant there were some things not being done as well as they needed to be. And one of those things was certainly how the board worked with the staff that is there to assist them.
But even if the planning board insists on reviewing requests in committee and outside of board meetings — a practice that drags out the process unnecessarily, and goes against the advice of staff — other issues remain in need of review if Southport is to be managed effectively and be a good place to do business.
Questions remain in need of decisions as to whether the board should review all requests or only provide recommendations on some. Should they provide recommendations on rezoning requests but be the ones to decide site plan sufficiency?
And those committee reviews — could that time be better spent prior to each meeting instead of after, with every board member reviewing the requests before ever discussing them in a group setting? Keeping in mind that staff checks the details, perhaps the degree of review is not what’s at issue, but rather the order in which it’s conducted.
These and other questions still need to be answered, and should be as part of a process that did not end last month, even if that’s what it seemed like. If the past few months reviewing procedures and trying to improve the relationship between boards and staff are to amount to anything, questions arising along the way need to be followed through, not kept at bay. (C) State Port Pilot 2010