Planning board wants 3-year terms to stay

Published 10:39 pm Sunday, September 15, 2013

Although Polk County commissioners have expressed interest in changing planning board terms from three years to two years, the planning board unanimously approved recommending that three-year terms remain in place.

The planning board met Sept. 12 and approved of the commissioners’ desire to get every township represented on the board, but said planning board members need such a lengthy learning time, two-year terms could slow projects down.

Commissioner Ted Owens was directed by the board of commissioners recently to review with staff every volunteer board and see if any changes are needed. Owens attended the planning board meeting and said Polk has 31 boards, with one committee that hasn’t met in almost a year.

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He said the county is thinking the planning board should coincide with commissioner terms, which would require planning board members to serve two-year terms instead of three-year terms. Owens also said at first commissioners wanted planning board members to be able to serve two consecutive two-year terms, but after commissioners Tom Pack and Michael Gage met with a couple of planning board members, commissioners approve of planning board members serving three consecutive terms before taking a year off. That would mean a member could serve up to six years consecutively, Owens said.

Commissioners have said their main goal is to get all six townships represented on the planning board.

Polk’s planning board consists of seven members and one alternate. The current board includes 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.

Planning board chair Bill Ennis said trying to get representation from each township is a great move, but a planning board member is not a productive member for a couple of years; a year and ½ at least.

Planning board member David Smith said if the planning board is working on a big topic, a new member could be asking questions that were answered a year ago, slowing things down considerably.

“So what I’m hearing is we’re all in favor of trying to get members from each township, but the others,” Ennis said, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Planning board member Christel Walters said keeping the longer terms would also mean less advertising needed for the county.

After going back and forth about what time of year new members should be appointed, the planning board also recommended that commissioners keep the current terms, from Nov. 1 through Oct. 31. Commissioners had said they want the planning board terms to be from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson, who also attended the planning board meeting, said keeping the terms away from December, which is when new commissioners are sworn in every two years, is a good idea because it would take the discussion away from elections.

“Planning board members could be a hot political item and it shouldn’t be,” Gasperson said. “It should be everything but that.”

Smith said politics are always going to come into play, but the county should minimize it with the planning board.

The planning board also discussed with commissioner Owens how to get the word out in the county that vacancies from certain townships are available. Owens said he has discussed with staff the possibility of getting the word out through churches, since not everyone reads the Tryon Daily Bulletin where the county advertises vacancies. Some planning board members said they did see advertisements in the paper when they first applied while others said someone from the county contacted them to apply.

Commissioners have already set a public hearing regarding amending the planning board ordinance for Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.