Mayor backs Planning Board

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt addressed the Planning Board meeting last night to clear the air over the brouhaha ignited when former council member Penny Rich wrote an official letter in her role as an Orange County commissioner to Kleinschmidt asking him to fire Del Snow as chair of the Planning Board. His timing forced us to choose between $5 movie night at Southpoint and sitting in front of the computer to watch the live-stream of the board meeting.

Of course, we chose local politics. Fewer car chases but often more drama.

Kleinschmidt may have danced around what he called “an event” and “some tension” and “wrong-headed assumptions,” but he was unequivocal in stating that “the voices of individuals shall not be silenced because they belong to a board,” and that he endorses town advisory board members stating their title as board members when speaking to other commissions and advisory boards. “Don’t refrain from credentialing yourself,” he said. The title of Planning Board member is shorthand to let others know you know what you’re talking about, he said.

The relationship between the council and the Planning Board “is of the highest priority,” Kleinschmidt said. Although the council is the only body able to make policy for the town, the Planning Board has independent authority to approve development. “It’s an awesome power,” Kleinschmidt said.

Planning Board member Deborah Fulghieri cut to the chase: “Can a county commissioner tell our mayor what to do?” she asked.

“No,” Kleinschmidt said firmly. “The county board of commissioners can’t tell us what to do. Only the Legislature can.”

Kleinschmidt said that at its retreat over the weekend, council discussed realigning boards with the CH2020 categories but that the Planning Board didn’t need to worry about being changed.

Del Snow wrapped up the exchange by thanking the mayor for clearing up what had been a “distressing” situation. “I know you appreciate that the Planning Board is not a rubber-stamp board,” she said. He replied, “I’m pleased you’re not a rubber-stamp board.”

Meanwhile, up in Hillsborough, Rich, as a county commissioner, is considering increasing our taxes to, among other things, give herself and others on the county payroll a pay raise.
– Nancy Oates

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25 Comments

  1. DOM

     /  February 6, 2013

    In my opinion, what needs to change is the way the Planning Board continually selects its own kind when it comes to choosing new members.

    Since the board “has independent authority to approve [and more often, disapprove] development” their makeup should be decided by an objective and unbiased body. Currently, it seems the inmates are running the asylum.

  2. Many

     /  February 6, 2013

    Dom, Why don’t you apply to be a member of the Planning Board?

    Now…..a property tax increase on top of two sales tax increases…eh?? On top of sales taxes that were sold to the electorate as alternatives to raising the property tax. Some of the county commissioners have absolutely no shame.

    I vote for selling or commercially developing some of the counties “off the tax role” properties as a way of gaining more revenue.

    Let’s see what they say it’s for……..and who votes for it.

    I think that Ms. Rich should not quit her day job just yet.

  3. Del Snow

     /  February 6, 2013

    Dom – Planning Board members are appointed by your Council. The Planning Board makes recommendations for appointments based on applications and personal appearances, but as you know, the Council does not have to agree with Planning Board recommendations. Please consider applying or come and share your views with us on any item that we are discussing. ALL information is valuable.

  4. Fred Black

     /  February 6, 2013

    Del, of the current members of the PB, were any not recommended by the PB for an appointment?

  5. Del Snow

     /  February 6, 2013

    Fred, that is surely a question that should not be answered on a public site. But it also is trying to create an issue where there is none. For better or for worse, the Council appoints the members of the board. Dom makes many negative comments on this blog. Unlike you or me, he does not use his full name, so I have no idea who he is. It is much easier to be critical of the council and boards while sitting at your keyboard than particpating in person. If Dom has some substantive data-driven points to make, I sincerely wish that they would be made where they could do the most good.

  6. DOM

     /  February 6, 2013

    Del -

    Has the town council EVER selected someone to serve on the PB who was NOT recommended by the board members?

    Regardless, it seems like an incestuous process when you get to perpetuate your own like-minded appointees – especially when you carry such obvious clout in determining CH’s future vis a vis development.

  7. DOM

     /  February 6, 2013

    Del -

    By the way, not everyone sees my comments as “negative.” I challenge you to find anything I’ve posted on this site that is untrue. Also, the fact I don’t use my real name does not discount the validity of my comments, despite what you may say.

  8. Nancy

     /  February 6, 2013

    Is the planning board really so like-minded? I seem to recall a couple of occasions when the board approved some development that Del and maybe one or two others opposed, and people were up in arms because Del, as planning board chair who presented the board’s recommendations at a development proposal hearing, would give equal time to presenting the dissenters’ rationale.

  9. Many

     /  February 6, 2013

    DOM, Are you suggesting you would not be recommended by one of the board members :)

    What would your solution to the perceived problem be? An elected planning board? I doubt the TC would agree to that as it would most certainly dilute their power and could result in deadlocks rather than decisions.

    If I may be so bold; it seems the substantive part of your complaint has more to do with your disagreement with past recommendations and decisions than the process of appointment. Can you elaborate on what decisions or recommendations you disagreed with and why?

  10. Fred Black

     /  February 6, 2013

    Del, it is most certainly public information unless they have changed the memo you send to the Council when a vote is required. Does it not show who the PB recommends? Why is it creating an issue by asking?

    Are any of the current members people who were not recommended by the PB to the Council? Fair question that deserves an answer. I just don’t have the time to go back through the minutes but as the chair, I assume that you know the answer.

  11. Bonnie Hauser

     /  February 6, 2013

    Does anyone share my enthusiasm about Del’s plans to encourage joint planning with the county and Carrboro? Imagine – working together – beyond town boundaries – to sort through issues, opportunities and impacts. Who knows, maybe this could catch on and extend to the funcitonal silos.

    Lets not lose Many’s point. After two sales tax increases, intended to avoid property taxes, the towns and the county are now discussing property tax increases.

    I can point out many glaring fiscal issues – but for this discussion lets just make sure that everyone know that in December, the commmisioners – witth support of the towns – levied $7 million in new sales taxes and fees for transit – yet the towns don’t have enough money for their bus systems

    If you recall, what started the discussion was that Del informed the BoCC that the TTA transit plan doesn’t align to the Chapel Hill 2020 focus areas. Turns out neither does the money.

    We have a problem folks – and I dont think we can “develop” our way out of it. If we follow Del’s lead, we may be able to plan a sustainable way forward.

  12. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  February 6, 2013

    I was not recommended by the PB to Council.

    To serve on the PB, interested persons just fill out a form downloaded off the Town’s website, and then submit it. The Town begs people to do so, and not many do. Usually, applicants list several boards they might like to participate in, in order of interest.

    The PB acts as a lightning rod for controversial proposals and Town decisions, and members (especially the chairperson) take much flak for Council votes. The men’s shelter and Charterwood come to mind. Council appreciates this function, as the mayor told us, “credential yourselves!” when speaking about public matters. But he also said, (and this was the crux of his discourse) “Town Council’s vote is Town policy.”

    Mayor Kleinschmidt cited “the Planning Board’s powerful authority,” mentioning an apartment building somewhere downtown that went up without his seeing it come before council. To me, that means the lot was already zoned for such a building and its developer could simply apply for the necessary permits without a Council vote. Powerful? For granting exceptions to the maximum number of cars allowed to park in front yards in a neighborhood conservation district, yes. For larger proposals it’s more an opportunity to draw a reaction before getting in line to be seen by Council.

    JMO.

  13. Fred Black

     /  February 6, 2013

    Thank you Deborah for helping to make it possible to have a “data-driven” conversation. If some people believe that the PB picks those that the Council actually appoints, then one should want to see the data to know the facts. Why anyone would think this should not be public or that asking the question is “causing an issue,” simply causes me to wonder what I’m missing.

  14. Jon DeHart

     /  February 7, 2013

    Fred,
    I know The T Board recommends but the Council Selects . I was recommended by the T Board on my second application and approved by Council . My guess is that on most boards, most members were recommended by the respective board or committee .

  15. Fred Black

     /  February 7, 2013

    That was my experience too, Jon. The board recommended after studying the applications and the Council almost always accepted our recommendation. BUT, when might that practice not be the way to go? Some have suggested that the PB might fall in that category.

  16. Jon DeHart

     /  February 7, 2013

    Council chooses who will be members of each Board and Planning is a powerful board. My guess is that Council will appoint people whose views are similar to theirs .

  17. Nancy

     /  February 7, 2013

    Or they appoint people whose views reflect the views of strong voting blocs.

  18. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  February 8, 2013

    2 out of 10 are appointed by the BOCC. But really, it comes down to who fills out and submits an application.

  19. Mark Marcoplos

     /  February 8, 2013

    Does anyone have any thoughts on how local governments should deal with irresponsible spending and policies at the state and federal level that put local municpalities in a financial bind?

  20. Nancy

     /  February 8, 2013

    You mean like the state using taxpayer money to pay for limiting access to health care for low-income residents because it has its knickers in a twist over Obamacare? Or the state cutting unemployment benefits in order to attract businesses to North Carolina that exploit the general workforce? Or the state threatening to cut funding for universities that don’t turn themselves into vocational-technical schools?

  21. Jason Baker

     /  February 8, 2013

    One note: Deborah, you were recommended by the Planning Board for appointment, but to the BoCC instead of the Town Council.

    http://www.townofchapelhill.org/modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=6322

  22. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  February 8, 2013

    Thanks Jason– I applied in spring 2009, was told I didn’t qualify, let the matter drop, and in October 2010 got an email from BOCC informing me of my qualifying. I didn’t know there’d been anything in between, but TGFI, I say.

    So I should recommend patience, right?

  23. Fred Black

     /  February 8, 2013

    Thanks Jason, I didn’t see “TOP SECRET” stamped on that document! :-)

  24. Bonnie Hauser

     /  February 8, 2013

    In response to to Mark and Nancy – I suggest that we encourage local leaders to focus on irresponsible spending practices at a local level.

    Of course if citizens have an issue, they can go directly to their state representatives. I’m sure Ellie, Verla and Valerie would be all ears.

  25. Mark Marcoplos

     /  February 10, 2013

    Bonnie – if we actually had a functioning democracy working according to common sense rules of fair play and fair representation, that would be a viable recommendation. The fact is that the federal and state government have been largely colonized by corporate interests to the point where individual political action may be less effective than ever before in the last 50 years. If local municipalities do not register their disagreement with policies that deprive them of the power and the funding to address basic human needs, then they are like the spouse of an abuser who accepts their situation while continuing to enable the bad behaivior.

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