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Eldridge’s plans for change delayed by commission

Mayor Dan Eldridge’s first step toward restoring credibility to the county’s planning and zoning process was delayed when the resolution with proposed changes to the Washington County Regional Planning Commission was referred to committee during last week’s county commission meeting.
All of the community members serving on the planning commission have expired terms, and new appointees with expertise in specific disciplines related to enacting, applying and enforcing the county’s zoning and subdivision regulations were part of a resolution Eldridge presented for consideration. The regional planning commission is appointed by the county mayor and confirmed by the board of county commissioners.
Eldridge believes change is needed in order to respond to comments from builders and developers that the administrative process is inconsistent and being used to further personal agendas. Such perceptions, Eldridge said, could result in the loss of economic development opportunities for the county.
A motion to approve the mayor’s resolution was made by Commissioner Mitch Meredith and seconded by Commissioner Joe Grandy.
But Commissioner Steve Light objected to Eldridge reducing the number of members from 24 to nine, saying that is the job of the commission. He made a secondary motion to refer that decision to a committee, which was seconded by Commissioner Pat Wolfe.
Commissioner Lee Chase asked if they could vote on the proposed appointees separate from the motion to refer to committee. County Attorney John Rambo said terms of service are attached to the memberships, and the only action the commission could take is to refer the resolution.
“So the committee will confirm the nine (as the new size) or come back with another number?” Wolfe asked for clarification.
“Yes, that’s all you can do,” Rambo answered.
Chairman Greg Matherly requested a voice vote on the motion to send the resolution regarding changes in the planning commission size to the Rules Committee. While many commissioners responded in opposition, no objection or request for a roll call vote was heard when Matherly declared the motion passed.
The Rules Committee will recommend a number to the full commission. After a decision is reached, Eldridge will come back with a list of appointees for confirmation.