Columbus proposal for planning board stir controversy

Published 3:34 pm Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Johann said it seems as though the town&squo;s planning board has become &dquo;the whipping boy&dquo; and said perhaps the developers will benefit.

Planning board members have voiced disappointment that the town council did not follow through on some of their recommendations, particularly regarding a three-acre minimum lot size. Town council members said the proposal was too severe.

Eric Gass said he was confused when he saw the notice for the planning board change because, in his opinion, the planning board has been an advocate for the public in miraculous ways.

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&dquo;As someone who has observed some of the work of your planning board and planner, I have been deeply impressed,&dquo; Gass said.

David Weiss said the planning board&squo;s 3-acre minimum lot size proposal seemed to set off a chain of events with the planning board falling out of favor with council.

&dquo;Are we really here to do a service to Columbus by splitting the boards?&dquo; Weiss asked council.

Planning board member Ernie Kan said towns have separate planning and zoning boards when they are overwhelmed and people are waiting for action.

Columbus council members have not said publicly why they want to appoint new planning board members. The possibility of separating the boards was brought up by council member Michael Gage last month at the end of the town&squo;s meeting and a public hearing was scheduled.

The town held the hearing Thursday, but made no decisions after some residents said there was insufficient notice time for the hearing. The town advertised the Jan. 15 hearing on Jan. 6, but not less than 10 days of notice is required by state statutes.

Columbus town attorney Bailey Nager said the residents are correct and recommended no action be taken on the issue. Council instead agreed to re-advertise and hold another public hearing next month

The delay gives the planning board some more time to make a recommendation on an amendment to the town&39;s zoning code, another item on last Thursday&39;s public hearing.

The planning board met recently but made no recommendation on the issue. The board has 30 days after the town directs the planning board to make a recommendation.

Planning board members also pointed out that the town cannot per statute adopt new ordinances or codes without giving the planning board 30 days to make a recommendation. If after 30 days no recommendation is made, council can change policy on its own.