Interest Grows for Plan Panel
So far, more than 60 residents have expressed interest in serving on Southern Pines' long-range advisory committee.
The Town Council is looking for about 20 residents who represent a broad cross-section of the community to serve on the board. If residents want to be included on the list, they can contact Town Manager Reagan Parsons before 5 p.m. Monday.
Parsons will give the council a final list Tuesday morning. It called a special meeting Sept. 15 to talk about the list and try to whittle it down to 20.
Bill Grimes, principal of Studio Cascade, the firm Southern Pines hired to lead it through the long-range planning process, attended the council's agenda meeting Wednesday. He said he had hoped to conduct two or three public hearings before Thanksgiving, but it looks like that won't happen.
That may mean that the planning process will take longer than the yearlong moratorium on subdivisions the council enacted to give the town time to complete a plan.
"We don't want to create a false sense of urgency or foot dragging," Councilman David Woodruff said.
The council asked Grimes for advice on how to select the best 20 names on the list. His only suggestion was to pick residents who would be dedicated to the process. The advisory committee is expected to meet at least once a month.
"You need to be sure the advisory committee will endure through the whole process," Grimes said.
He suggested that the advisory committee select its own chairman, rather that have the council appoint one.
Many of the residents who want to be on the advisory committee are unknown to the council, Woodruff said. He asked how the council was supposed to evaluate those people. They may be just the types the council might want on the committee, Grimes said.
"Those are the names you really want to look at hard," he said.
Mayor Mike Haney asked if a council member should be on the committee.
"Keep in mind that this is an advisory committee," Grimes said. "Its primary responsibility is to help make the Town Council make the best decision it can."
Grimes has worked with committees that included a member of a town council. It can work fine, he said, but things tended to get political.
"It didn't necessarily lead to frank discussion," he said.
Haney questioned whether council members attending the committee meetings might dampen the frankness of the discussion.
"It depends on the boldness of the committee," Grimes said. "If they're a little timid..."
"... I don't see that as being a problem," Parsons said with a laugh.
In other business, the council may finally be ready to vote on an ordinance change that would prohibit the use of vehicles as signs for businesses.
The council has been struggling with the language for months. It wants to outlaw vehicles being used as billboards, but not prohibit work trucks that have a company name on the side.
"I'm willing to go with this," Woodruff said. "I think it leaves the interpretation up to the enforcement person. I kind of like that."
Parsons said, "I don't think that was the intent."
"If that was the intent," Mayor Pro Tem Chris Smithson said, "I'm going to have a problem with it."
Woodruff said that the council needed to review its penalties.
"Start with the pinkie finger?" Smithson said.
"You're on a roll today," Council Member Abigail Dowd said.
"He (Woodruff) would take a hand," Smithson joked.
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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