Maybe it would help to understand the proposed changes to the makeup of the Columbia County Planning Commission if the proposal was fixing something broken.
Instead, the changes seem to be nothing more than a blatant effort to make the board more political, less competent and less representative of county citizens.
This process began innocently enough, when the county began revamping the way it sets up appointments for various county boards and committees. The aim was to standardize the number of members on each body and the method by which they were appointed.
The plan took a detour when it came to Planning and Zoning, which votes on all zoning changes and development issues before they receive final review by the County Commission.
The current five-member board consists of members appointed from the district of each county commissioner, with one at-large member appointed by the commission chairman.
The proposed changes to Planning and Zoning include removing the requirement that each member live in the district from which he or she is appointed, and reducing time in office so members would serve for a year and be subject to re-appointment or removal.Board members rejected the entire package.
They were absolutely right to do so. Here's why.
These citizen representatives are asked to make important recommendations about the future of the land, homes and businesses within the county's four districts. It is vitally important for those decisions to come from people who live in those districts and thus have to live with the consequences.
Changing the length of planning and zoning members' terms in office is pure political monkeyshines. The one-year term barely allows new members time to get properly trained; as one board member put it, the job carries a four- or five-month learning curve because of the technical details of county code. The short leash also would allow commissioners to boot planning members who don't vote they way they like.
Another proposed change likewise seems politically motivated, but at least makes sense: Members would be required to step down if they decide to run for office. Many believe the latter change is directed at Planning and Zoning member Brett McGuire, who ran for the state House earlier this year and plans to run again next year. But it also would apply to the board's chairman, Deanne Hall, who has announced her intention to run for the seat of Diane Ford, the retiring commissioner who appointed Hall.
County commissioners will give final approval or rejection to the recommendations. When it comes time for them to cast those votes Nov. 20, we strongly urge their rejection.
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