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Hiatus for planning board gains momentum
Proposal focus of upcoming public hearings
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Forsyth County News

The Forsyth County commission has begun the process of shelving the local planning board for a few months.

Two public hearings must be held before the commission can shut down the five-member panel, which reviews requests for zonings and some permits.

Commissioner Pete Amos has proposed the idea as a cost-saving measure.

The commission voted Tuesday to open the matter, which would involve changes to the county’s unified development code, to public hearings.

The vote was 3-2 in favor, with Jim Boff and Todd Levent opposed.

The first public hearing would likely be in late August, before the very same planning board, and the second before commissioners in September, when a final vote could occur.

As proposed, the planning board would be disbanded until June 30, 2012, at which point commissioners could re-evaluate whether there is a need to reinstate it.

According to estimates provided by the county, the planning board costs about $4,000 per month to operate.

The number of rezonings and other issues coming before the panel has dropped along with the economy over the past couple years.

Amos, who previously served on the planning board, said the group has just two zoning issues and one home occupation permit to review this month.

Nearly all issues before the board go to the commission for a final vote.

If the suspension goes through, the commission would just absorb the board’s duties, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.

"The planning commission is not going to be disbanded at all," Jarrard said. "Their functionality is simply temporarily going to be stopped."

After the possible six- to eight-month hiatus, if the terms of current planning board members haven’t expired, they would continue to serve, he said.

Commissioners Boff and Levent weren’t certain the suspension is being pursued for cost savings.

During a previous work session, Boff suggested the move to disband the panel was "to show your disfavor with what’s happened down there."

In just the past couple months, the planning board has had heated arguments at public meetings, a session canceled due to insufficient public notice and a contested vote to approve an exception to an overlay district.

Levent agreed that a cost savings doesn’t seem to be the primary motive, since the issues will simply be passed to the commission.

"Then our meetings will run longer … so it’s not exactly the true cost savings because we’ll have to pay the staff to stay a little bit later," Levent said.