Why would an outside zoning board member be necessary?

Published 11:35 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2015

To the editor:

That is my question regarding the latest proposal from the Saluda mayor and his board of commissioners. Forget the potential problems with the legality of doing this; Saluda residents have always volunteered and fulfilled these positions. It has been restricted to only residents with good reason. A resident has the interest of the city in mind when they make decisions because they have both financial and quality of life interests in zoning regulations and decisions rendered.

An outside board member can’t possibly share the same perspective. They may have business or financial interests inside the city limits but they don’t live with the outcomes in the same way that residents do. An outside board member with only business interests or no other interest is going to make decisions that likely ignore the quality of life issues that residents struggle with regarding such things as parking, neighborhood traffic, signage, water and sewer usage, policing or other services that residents pay extra taxes to receive. Zoning board members and the decisions and regulations that evolve from their efforts affect most services either directly or indirectly. This is why being a board member provides a great place to learn about and have impact on the future of the city.

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So what is the motivation for bringing in outside board members?  Are there no volunteers willing to serve and learn about their city’s governance by serving on the board?  Why not?  Has the potential pool of volunteers shrunk even though the population has grown? When I see the long list of people volunteering their time to work on the railroad museum project, it’s hard to believe that there aren’t people willing to serve in some capacity. Of course, they would not only have to want serve their neighbors, they’d have to be willing to work with the mayor and board of commissioners.

Unfortunately, it appears that the potential reasons for even entertaining the prospect are not likely good for the citizens of the City of Saluda.  And they are all bad including: an attempt to provide political favor to non-resident business owners, or the lack of volunteers willing to work with the current mayor and board (remember the veterans sign incident), or a sinister political move to shift power away from the Citizens of Saluda to outside interests.

If somehow it is an innocent idea, then it is one that should have never seen the light of day. It clearly has not been sufficiently thought through with respect its ramifications. Something that a “business person” would propose but not one that is consistent with good governance. Having been a successful businessman for over 40 years, I know the difference.

Rodney Gibson

Saluda, N.C.