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Commissioners must reject planning and zoning changes

Posted: Sunday, December 02, 2007

When Columbia County commissioners Tuesday decide whether to approve changes to the county's planning and zoning commission, those favoring it should be honest about their motive: It's an early Christmas present to their pals in the building and development community.

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Here's what's happening: Commissioners proposed changes to the appointments of planning and zoning members that would:

- require members to resign if they run for elective office;

- allow district-elected commissioners to appoint their zoning-board representatives from anywhere in the county; and,

- make it easier for commissioners to remove their appointed representative.

The first change is petty, but defensible. And commissioners rightly backed off allowing appointments from outside commission districts.

The third piece survived, however - and it's pure mischief.

It's no secret that the commission is builder-friendly - and they should be. Construction is is a significant cog in our economy.

But commissioners must protect citizens from builders who might push too hard or cut corners. That's why the county has a planning and zoning board, with appointed members reviewing issues at the heart of growth.

Board members, however, are purely in an advisory role. Any votes they take can be accepted or vetoed by the elected commissioners. So why make it easier to boot those board members?

It's simple: Some commissioners prefer appointees who provide easy-to-rubber-stamp, developer-friendly recommendations. But not Ron Thigpen and Diane Ford, who voted against this provision.

It's not too late for Commission Chairman Ron Cross and commissioners Tom Mercer and Lee Anderson to follow the lead of Thigpen and Ford.

They can either reject these changes Tuesday, maintaining their integrity and that of the planning and zoning commission. Or they can again vote their approval and forever remove doubt about who is pulling their strings.



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