Columbia County planning commissioners Thursday unanimously rejected a proposed change to the board's operations that would allow county commissioners to appoint Planning Commission members without regard to district residency.
The proposed amendment would allow, among other things, the four district-elected county commissioners to appoint planning representatives from anywhere in the county. Currently, only the commission chairman can choose an at-large candidate.
Planning commission members expressed concern over unbalanced district representation on the planning board.
"If you deny representation from one district, that is not fair," planning commissioner Dean Thompson said.
Planning commission chairwoman Deanne Hall said she supports the current residency requirement.
"The opportunity for political manipulation is so strong," Hall said. "I can't emphasize how much it scares me that this board, which is not a political board, would become nothing more than a political pawn used by the Board of Commissioners."
Language was included to change planning commissioners' four-year terms to a single year with the possibility for a three-year reappointment.
"I do feel a year is not reasonable," planning commissioner Jean Garniewicz said, adding that serving brings with it at least a four- or five-month learning curve.
The proposal also would require planning commissioners to step down if they qualify to run for elective office.
The planning commissioners, who each signed a code of ethics earlier this year, agreed they would rather govern themselves and felt sure any unruly planning commissioner would be removed internally.
The amendments and the recommendation of planning commissioners will go before the Board of Commissioners on Nov. 20 for a final vote.
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