I am concerned and alarmed about the April 3 News-Times story, "Developers question silence provision."
My understanding is that the local developers wish to overturn the existing silence provision which is presently a part of the Columbia County Planning and Zoning Commission's Code of Conduct. County Attorney Doug Batchelor has been asked to reassess this part of the code. However, the point in question is not one of legality, but a matter of ethics.
The argument of the developers is that under the present operation of the Zoning Commission they (1) do not have enough time to make their case, and (2) the staff of the Commission is not conveying their message objectively to the members of the Zoning Board. The second argument questions the honesty and professionalism of Planning Director Jeff Browning and his staff.
What the developers really want is to have private contacts with the Zoning Board members outside a public hearing in order to persuade them to their point of view -- exactly what the current silence provision was designed to prevent.
At a time when most public committees and agencies are encouraging openness, our Zoning Commission is being asked by the developers to do just the opposite.
I oppose this effort to give special privilege to the developers at the expense of our neighbors who are affected more and more by the decisions of the Zoning Commission.
I am not opposed to developers. I live in a nice neighborhood designed by a progressive developer. What I am opposed to is special privilege afforded to any group at the expense of our fellow citizens.
If you agree that we need to keep in place the ethical procedures that now permit a level playing field for all concerned, then please contact Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, and your district representative on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.
J. Earl Williams
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