PINE KNOLL SHORES — With the board of commissioners able to take action Wednesday on proposed changes to the landscaping permit process, most of the planning board wants them to delay action for more study.

The planning board met for its regular meeting Tuesday at the town hall boardroom at 100 Municipal Circle. Commissioners Clark Edward, John Brodman, Ted Goetzinger and Bill Knecht were also present, though this wasn’t a formal board of commissioners meeting.

During the meeting, the planning board discussed proposed changes to the major landscaping permit process. The planning officials are scheduled to have a joint meeting with the board of commissioners at 6 p.m. today, at which time the board may take action to approve or deny the staff-proposed changes.

After discussing the proposed changes, planning board member George Greene asked for a show of hands to determine how many members want the commissioners to take action Wednesday and how many would prefer the commissioners hold off while a subcommittee looks into potential effects the changes would have. Board members Isaak Pipkin, Bud Daniels and Chairman Paul Payne were in favor of the commissioners taking action Wednesday, while members Bob Holman, Kathy Werle, Doug Browne, Michelle Powers, Marsh Cobin and Mr. Greene were in favor of waiting.

“I think we need to do more study on the effects of this change,” Mr. Greene said. “I believe in management change, but I (also) believe in smart analysis. I’d challenge the commissioners to create a group from us and the community appearance commission to determine what would work best.”

The proposed changes would authorize the town planner to grant major landscaping permits to applicants seeking to build single-family residential houses. The existing ordinance requires single-family house projects to be reviewed and approved by the CAC and planning board to receive a permit.

Town Manager Brian Kramer, who was present at the board meeting Tuesday, has said at previous public meetings he spearheaded the proposed changes. His goals seem to be twofold: to free up the planning board to focus its attention on land-use policies and to increase efficiency in permitting single-family homes.

Mr. Kramer said while the proposed changes to do away with the need to hold a public planning board meeting to take action on permit applications for single-family houses, it wouldn’t do away with what he thinks is the most important contribution from both the planning board and CAC – the site visit, which he envisions would still occur for single-family house projects, with the two groups accompanying the town planner for consultation.

“I don’t think this group has ever said a person can’t build a house,” Mr. Kramer said. “The delay comes from the packages the staff has to come up with to present to you (at meetings). It’s a lot of info for a decision we think (Town Planner) Kevin (Reed) could make himself.”

CAC member Steve Felch was also at Tuesday’s meeting. He said he thinks the consensus of the CAC is they want to have joint site visits with the town planner and planning board. However, he also said they don’t have a formal position on the changes because they haven’t had enough time to discuss them.

At previous public meetings, residents have expressed concerns about the proposed changes, chief among them being how not having public meetings would affect the ability to give public comment on single-family house projects. At Tuesday’s meeting, Robert Cox said during public comment he thinks they’re having “a clash of culture.”

“The staff sees this as putting checks in a box,” he said. “The CAC and planning board see it as citizens who want to be involved. I recommend we have a broader discussion than just the meetings we’ve had so far.”

Amory Cox also spoke during public comments. She said what she’s valued most from the planning board meetings is how they have people “who cared enough to get involved” on the board.

During the board’s discussion, Ms. Powers said the board hasn’t had much involvement in creating or changing land-use policies in recent years.

“Our (meeting) agendas used to have an annual agenda,” she said, “on which we had subcommittees working on these policy issues. We haven’t done that for some time.”

Mr. Browne, a planning board member, said he’s strongly felt that the process of making these changes to permitting has been “horrible.”

“I think this was dropped in our lap without preamble,” he said. “It would have been helpful if someone had come and told us how things will be done. This has been presented as a plan that’s half-baked. I don’t see how this will speed things up that much. I feel this hasn’t been a good approach to making these changes.”

Mr. Holman said the proposed permitting process is “a dramatic change from what’s been done at the planning board and CAC.”

“I think we need the time to make a committee,” he said.

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

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