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Planning board reviews its role
Preparing for busy stretch
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Forsyth County News

The return of development in Forsyth County led the planning board to review its charge during a work session Tuesday night.

Six residential rezoning applications requesting a total of 552 homes are on tap for review this month, and the trend doesn’t show signs of stopping.

Board members had a host of questions for County Attorney Ken Jarrard, who presented a training session on their duties, considerations in application decision-setting zoning conditions and more.

The five appointed officials, who make recommendations to the county commission, discussed their roles and strategies for tackling the many current and future rezoning issues facing the panel.

Jarrard referenced the county’s unified development code for a list of dozens of factors that the board can consider when reviewing an application for a rezoning or conditional use permit.

In general, the planning board should consider the property owner’s rights and those of the community, he said.

“There’s not a magic answer,” Jarrard said. “It’s a balancing test.”

Zoning conditions, he said, should be intended to mitigate the impact of a land-use classification on surrounding property owners and the county.

He cautioned the board to limit the number of conditions similar to existing county regulations, to avoid confusion and to include stipulations that are enforceable.

The board discussed how to handle resident requests for conditions to impose upon developers, which is a common practice in rezoning applications.

Alan Neal questioned the emphasis that each member should place on being a mediator. His colleague on the board, Joe Moses, said he felt that was the “base level” of the job.

“We help both sides come together,” Moses said.

According to Jarrard, the members may be less reluctant to “take a bullet” on an unpopular decision.

His advice was simply to “be confident in your instincts” when determining appropriate zoning conditions and land use.

Jarrard also said the members don’t necessarily need to represent the public, the county or the developers.

That vision or focus, he said, likely will come from the appointing county commissioner, who is elected.

The planning board is a relatively new group, with the longest serving member having been appointed in November 2010 and the most recent one joining in April.

Development in the county has steadily increased over the past few years, leading to a higher volume of work for the body.

Moses asked fellow board members Tuesday if they’d be interested in receiving more pay per meeting due to that increase in time and out-of-pocket expenses.

“I feel like I’m the perfect person to bring this up,” he said. “I don’t get compensation for this at all and I’ll never take compensation for it. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that our other members shouldn’t be fairly compensated.”

The pay is currently $100 per meeting, typically with two meetings per month. Moses proposed $250.

Chairwoman Pam Bowman said she views her position as “public service,” so she hadn’t given much thought to compensation.

Planning board members decided to revisit the topic at a later meeting. If they decided to seek a pay increase, a request would have to be made of the commission.