A proposal to name people involved in zoning requests was stopped short in the Forsyth County commission Tuesday.
Commissioners voted 2-3, with Jim Boff and Todd Levent in favor, to move forward with a possible code modification that would require corporate entities in rezoning applications to list the individuals involved.
Boff said the measure would increase transparency and help in determining whether they had a conflict of interest in the matter.
“My concern is that of a) openness for the public to see and b) for my own knowledge, to know for a fact whether it’s possible that I have a conflict of interest,” Boff said.
The proposal originated with his appointed planning board member, Joe Moses, who recently resigned from the panel.
The planning board rejected the initiative during its Nov. 19 work session, with only Moses in favor of it.
Two days later, the county commission announced it would discuss the matter.
Commissioners who voted against proceeding with the initiative had concerns about its possible latent effects and felt the current setup was adequate.
Commissioner Brian Tam didn’t see enough of a benefit in the idea, noting that “a lot of zonings are done before the land has changed hands.”
Boff didn’t disagree that the proposal could leave out the new owner, or possible beneficiary, or a rezoning.
“The public ought to know at least who the owners of the land are at the time the zoning is being proposed,” he said.
Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills was concerned that revealing the names could be used against the county as grounds for a lawsuit.
“Have we given them a whole new ground, because of who they are, that they can now say that we have shown bias and prejudice against them, when really it should have been voted down,” Mills said.
She said she heard feedback from some attorneys in favor of the measure because it would open a means for litigation.
Another attorney said an argument could be made that the affidavit would violate a corporation’s right to privacy, Mills said. She felt the commission has a “pretty good idea” now of who’s involved through the rezoning process.