Planning board left with vacancies after BOC did not reappoint two members

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, February 11, 2016

By Leah Justice

The Polk County Planning Board is left with two open seats after the majority of the board of commissioners did not reappoint recent planning board chair Lisa Krolak and member Christel Walter.

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Commissioners met Jan. 25 and had four vacancies with three applications for the planning board and met again on Monday, Feb. 8 to consider one application for two vacancies.

On Jan. 25, the vote to reappoint members Bill Ennis and Wally Pace was unanimous by the board, but the vote to reappoint Krolak was 4-1 with commissioner Ray Gasperson being the only vote to reappoint Krolak.

On Feb. 8, the vote to reappoint Walter was 3-2, with commissioners Michael Gage, Keith Holbert and Tom Pack voting not to reappoint Walter and commissioners Gasperson and Shane Bradley voting to reappoint Walter.

Krolak was first appointed to the planning board in November 2008, reappointed in 2012 and again in 2014. She served as the board’s vice-chair in 2010 and 2014 and was the board’s chair in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Walter was appointed to the planning board in 2012 and has served since.

The Bulletin sent Pack, Holbert and Gage emails following the planning board vote asking why the board did not vote to reappoint Krolak given there were three applications and four vacancies on the board. None of the commissioners asked responded to the question. The Bulletin inadvertently failed to send Bradley the question.

Following Monday’s meeting, the Bulletin asked commissioners Pack and Holbert why they didn’t reappoint Krolak or Walter with both giving no response.

Both Krolak and Walter were asked by the Bulletin their reaction to not being reappointed to the planning board with both saying they were reluctant to re-apply to the board saying they didn’t think the current board would appoint them.

Walter said she had been sitting on the fence ambivalent whether she should apply and she’s not really surprised at not being reappointed given the pattern of operation by this board of commissioners.

“Anyone tainted with having been a member of the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) committee and still outspokenly in favor of implementing it is suspect,” Walter said.

Walter said she was first appointed to the planning board in December 2012, which she thinks was one of the last acts of the previous board of commissioners.

“Given this action it seems that I have been a thorn in the side of the majority ever since,” Walter said.

There is one legitimate point for not reappointing her, Walter said, and that is the fact that there is already one representative on the planning board from her township, White Oak. But, Walter added that it could be argued that there are not a lot of volunteers that have applied, “but again, that is not something that is of concern to the commissioners.”

Krolak said she too debated whether to apply when her term expired in January.

“I would like to serve on the planning board another term to support the county and thought I’d at least submit my application but would be surprised if the BOC (board of commissioners) would appoint me,” Krolak said.

Krolak said she has been involved with the UDO and tried to promote it as the planning board worked very hard on the document as well as the Mountain and Ridgeline Protection Ordinance.

“The planning board is currently made up of a diverse cross section of members and we have become quite a close knit group of folks working together to agree to disagree and coming to a common ground on issues,” Krolak said. “I will miss the board and will plan to reapply next year under a new BOC.”

The planning board has seven members and one alternate with members representing the county’s six townships (Columbus, Coopers Gap, Green Creek, Saluda, Tryon and White Oak) and one at large member.

The terms of planning board members Walter, Pace, Ennis and Krolak expired on Jan. 31, 2016.

The terms of the other current members Myron Yoder, Buffy Blackwell, Lee Bradley and alternate Michael Stone will expire on Jan. 31, 2017.

Commissioners will consider a new application to the planning board during its Feb. 22 meeting from Libby Lee Morris to fill one of the two vacancies.