10/3/2019 6:31:00 AM LETTERS/OPINIONS
Why I voiced concerns about public notice signs
Editor's note: Just as we do with Grins & Gripes, because the above letter includes several statements presented as fact, as well as accusations of town staff members' lack of oversight and preparation, we felt a responsibility to give town staff an opportunity to respond. Town Planner Chris York was out of town, so Town Manager Scott Whitaker agreed to respond. Below is what he wrote in an email...
Regarding the "Notice of Public Hearing" signs, the older domain name still forwards to the new one, so it's a non-issue. To my knowledge, nobody has requested an update of the website on the signs, but it's in the works. To avoid the expense of new signs, we'll replace only the web address instead. Our signs were and are legal.
Teresa Pegram mentions 160A-387 and the relevant part reads: "The planning board may hold public hearings in the course of preparing the ordinance. Upon completion, the planning board shall make a written recommendation regarding adoption of the ordinance to the city council. The city council shall not hold its required public hearing or take action until it has received a recommendation regarding ordinance from the planning board."
The week prior to the Council-level public hearing, Council members received an agenda packet with the Zoning Board's June 24, 2019 minutes that detailed the public hearing and resulting recommendation, including how it was consistent with the Summerfield Comprehensive Plan and was in the public interest. This information is also part of the staff reports in that packet. I believe the written minutes and recommendation meet both the intent and letter of 160A-387. Chris (York, the town planner) also spoke with David Owens at UNC's School of Government to confirm the appropriateness.
As to the separate letter provided at the meeting that evening, it didn't provide new information for study, but was merely the ZB-signed affirmation of that which had already been provided to Council and met the requirements.
Thank you to the citizen who asked about my concerns regarding the town's "notice of public hearing" sign. Please allow me to explain. A citizen called and voiced concerns about the legality of the sign. I noticed it had the town's old website listed on the sign. Further, I had safety concerns about citizens walking to the sign to get information out of a tube. I asked the town's attorney if the sign the town was using was legal, he answered "yes." I moved on to my next question.
My main concern was the council had not received the "Plan Consistency Statement" from the zoning board. According to 160A-387, 160D-6-4(a) the governing board shall not hold the required public hearing or take action, until the board has received that statement. I had asked about that ZB statement, that's when it was passed out during the meeting, at that point of agenda item #11. (No time to read in advance.) There was a motion to take recess so council could study the statement. It is unfortunate that we are expected to vote on an issue without the town manager providing adequate information in a timely manner prior to the meeting.