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Planning post reshaped
Community development added
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Forsyth County News

 

Forsyth County's new planning director will also oversee community development and, as expected, will report to the county manager.

Those changes, as well as not granting the position civil service protection, were approved by the county commission in a 5-0 vote Tuesday.

The decision essentially creates the position of director of planning and community development, which when filled would abolish the current position of director of planning and development.

Commissioners had explored the idea of adding "economic development" to the planning post, but changed the title to "community development" instead.

Including community in the title is common in several jurisdictions in the state, said Pat Carson, the county's director of personnel services.

"It is more broad, encompassing, not just focused on economic development, but more of a community as a whole," Carson said.

Following the meeting, Commissioner Jim Boff said the director's position was expanded in part to include duties for dealing with the state Department of Community Affairs.

"I think the idea was to align in with the state titles and also have an additional awareness of planning and zoning decisions and their effect on the community," he said.

Boff added that economic development was "too tightly focused" and overlapped matters that the local chamber of commerce or development authority handle.

Board members also voted 4-1, with Bell opposed, that the county manger have the authority to hire and fire for the at-will position and that it have no civil service protection.

"I still believe that we are truly a county manager-type government. The county manager should have the right to discipline and fire," Commissioner Pete Amos said.

Added Commissioner Todd Levent: "Certainly, we'd have discussion before that takes place anyway."

Bell suggested that the director be able to appeal actions to the commissioners, but received no support from his colleagues.

"I guess the way it's going to shake out is they're going to have to appeal to the courts," he said.

The current planning director position falls under civil service protection, which came into play in 2010.

The position was vacated in August when the commission voted 3-1 to fire Jeff Chance amid allegations that he failed to follow and comply with county policies.

Chance, who had civil service protection, appealed the dismissal to the County Civil Service Board, which upheld the commission's decision after an eight-day hearing last fall.

In December, the previous commission also voted 3-2 to remove language from the county's unified development code that gave it authority to make personnel decisions about the planning director.

Boff, who had voted in favor of that change, said it was related to Chance's case only in that it made commissioners realize they had that power.

"It wasn't like, 'Boy, if we changed this, everything about the Jeff Chance situation would have been better,'" Boff said. "It was like, 'Gee, we didn't even know it was like this.

"We can't think of what the reasoning was of a previous board ... It doesn't seem correct to us and this position ought to report to the county manager.'"

The move away from civil service protection Tuesday was not one directly related to the drawn-out departure of Chance, he said, but rather a more general shift in the county.

"We had already been trending toward making these upper management positions report to the county manager and not be part of civil service," Boff said.