On Monday, they found an issue where inaction appears to be the best action.
County Planning Director Bently Thomas spoke to the Commission about the county’s comprehensive plan at the request of Commissioner Jeff Morelock.
The plan identifies areas for reinvestment, managed growth and rural preservation and is designed to look ahead at what will be needed to accommodate anticipated regional growth through the year 2035.
Thomas said the planning commission formally adopted the plan Feb. 11.
Morelock noted Thomas did not recommend the plan be formally approved by the County Commission.
“I understand your recommendation that the (County) Commission not pass it and sort of leave it open,” Morelock said. “I’m just a little confused as to what’s going on.”
Thomas said it is part of state statutes that a “regional planning commission should adopt a general plan.”
“This is a general plan and we keep it up to date,” he said. “If the County Commission wants to adopt it, they can. They have the authority under state code.”
Thomas explained anything the commission did that was not consistent with the plan would be “contrary to state law.”
Commissioner Bill Winters said if it were passed by the County Commission, “it pretty much becomes a zoning code.”
“We’d be pretty much saying we’re supporting that code as a Commission,” Winters said. “So, if we make that move we’re making that move for the next generation who comes here as commissioners.”
Winters said his interpretation was the planning commission could continue updating the plan and bring zoning changes to the County Commission as warranted.
“All rezonings are going to come to you anyway,” Thomas said. “State law says the county commissioners are the ones that have to approve zonings. We only recommend zonings. It takes nothing away from the County Commission.”
Morelock noted the plan envisions industrial parks at the end of Highway 58.
“That’s going to be 10 or 12 years from now,” Winters said. “We adopt that plan today and the next Commission after us will have to deal with the commitment we would have made. That’s my concern.”
He said he felt it would be better to sit back as the development occurred and then wait for the appropriate entities to bring the necessary recommendations to the County Commission as needed.
County Attorney Crystal Freiberg said unless the County Commission was “really going to look at this plan” her recommendation would be not to adopt.
“The only reason to adopt something like this is because when you are looking at it from a zoning perspective it makes your zoning questions easier because you have already decided it,” Freiberg said.
She said if the plan was adopted and the County Commission makes a zoning decision that goes against the plan they have adopted, an unhappy property owner could file a lawsuit saying the County Commission had acted “arbitrarily and capriciously.”
“We would have a hard time defending that,” Freiberg said. “My recommendation would be to not adopt this plan because right now it’s a planning document. My caution would be if you are going to adopt it, you need to look at everything and make sure it’s what you want to say.”
Thomas reiterated that every zoning change, amendment or map amendment “will come to you eventually.”
Commissioner Jeff Yarber ended the discussion with laughter when he suggested, “We need to do what we seem to do best, and that seems to be nothing.”