Following one’s own rules not a waste of time
A single comment in a very long, drawn out meeting of the Jefferson County Planning Commission struck me as contrary to the role of that board. When Commissioner Steve Stolipher said, “We don’t need to waste the time of the applicant,” in reference to a possible need for a traffic study, it became clear to me that concerns of the community members meant little to that commissioner.
The possibility of a traffic study was listed in the Conditional Use Permit granted allowing the Morgan’s Grove Market project to move forward. That condition was prefaced with the statement that if the State Department of Highways deemed it necessary, the Twin Oaks Subdivision, LLC must comply.
The developers requested a waiver from that study during this week’s meeting of the planning commission. Apparently the CUP list of conditions have to be clarified in accordance with the county’s subdivision regulations which also require a traffic study. While it seemed to be a duplicate effort with the already issued CUP, the outcome should be the same if the DOH does not deem a traffic study necessary, there doesn’t need to be one. But, the big factor and a question not one commissioner asked was, “Is there a letter from the DOH saying no study is needed?” Planning staff indicated that at this point, there is not. End of story. Until such a letter comes in, the rule should apply. The commission voted to waive the study, pending receipt of the letter. And it took nearly an hour to do it. The waste of time came in the nearly hour long discussion of how to approve what was already in the CUP, not in the public comments made about safety of the vehicular traffic and potential pedestrians brought up by concerned neighbors.
The same was true of the decision of the commission to waive the required sidewalks along Route 480 in front of the project as well as useless discussions of hypothetical situations of grating a garden site on residential property. The comparison of an individual grating without a site plan in no way corresponds to a commercial construction project.
While I understand these commissioners need to fully vet their decision-making, the undue length of discussions when staff has already presented their recommendations in writing to each commissioner prior to the meetings, should help speed things along, especially when the decisions basically all align with the staff recommendations despite any comments made by the public.
The continued interjection by representatives of the development throughout the process also aided to the waste of time of those present. While procedure calls for an opening statement and a closing statement by a potential developer, the continual acceptance of the developer’s representative to pop up and down to comment throughout the entire evening’s discussion between commissioners showed a bit of bias toward the proposed project. Members of the public were limited to their allotted time to speak. The same should have been the case for the developers.