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Polk considers amending planning board ordinance

Commissioners want each township represented

Polk County Commissioners are considering amending the county’s planning board ordinance to get better representation from the county’s six townships.

Commissioners met Aug. 5 and reviewed proposed changes to the current ordinance.

The board directed commissioner Ted Owens to work with employees on proposing needed changes to volunteer boards last month.

The main change being proposed to the planning board ordinance is to advertise for specific township appointments once vacancies become available.

The current ordinance calls for seven members and one alternate with the ordinance stating, “members should be selected to represent townships, municipalities, and/or all areas of the county.”

The draft ordinance also states that the planning board consists of seven members and one alternate, but says, “to the extent possible, six of the seven membership seats shall be held by one resident of each of the county’s townships. The remaining planning board member seat shall be an at large seat and may be a resident of anywhere within the county. The alternate member seat shall be an at large seat and the member may reside anywhere within the county.”

The current planning board consists of three members from Columbus, one member from Green Creek, two from White Oak, one from Saluda and the alternate from Columbus. There is currently no representation from Tryon or Coopers Gap.

Commissioner Owens said the point of the amendment is stressing that the planning board will have members from each township. He said he feels the current draft puts more pressure on getting representation from each township. Owens said the planning board has ended up with two to three representatives from Columbus and no one from Coopers Gap or Tryon.

The new policy proposes for example, if a Tryon member is one of the openings, the county will advertise specifically for a Tryon representative for two weeks. If no one from Tryon applies, the county will advertise it a second time. If no one applies from Tryon again, the county will request an at large member. At the end of the at large member’s three-year term, the county would again advertise for someone from Tryon.

Commissioner Tom Pack asked for the board to consider two-year terms for the planning board, which he proposed would begin on Jan. 1 and expire on Dec. 31. Currently, planning board members serve three-year terms from Nov. 1 to Oct. 31.

Pack said the county could ask current members whose terms are expiring Oct. 31, 2013 to stay on until the end of the year.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said he has concerns about two-year terms. He said the members are dedicated and work hard on issues and gain a level of knowledge because they’ve been there a while.

“I would be concerned about two-year rotations that you’re going to lose some of that (knowledge),” Gasperson said. “Is there anything really broken here?”

Commissioner chair Michael Gage said he thinks every community needs to be represented on the planning board.