SP Hopes to Calm Flap Over Appearance Commission
Southern Pines Appearance Commission member Jeannie Carpentier believes that “good, collaborative communication” is needed in the wake of the recent resignations of six commission members.
“For the sake of this town, I would hope that we could all behave like civic leaders rather than politicians,” Carpentier said. “I’m all about continuing to do good things for this town, with no personal agenda. We can’t get caught up in politics and egos.”
Fellow commission member Geoff Cutler feels that the group is “a little in limbo-land right now,” but echoed Carpentier’s sentiment.
“I would like to think that if this is a communication problem, then we can fix it by once again communicating with each other,” Cutler said. “I would like to think that the issue could be resolved by the Town Council meeting with the Appearance Commission and getting this thing solved.”
Mayor David McNeill believes that improved communication between the two bodies will be “vital” to moving forward.
“Perhaps a council member could periodically attend Appearance Commission meetings, or we could conduct joint work sessions for project updates,” McNeill said. “In addition, there may be some areas that they can give attention to that they have not previously.
“We need to look at the entire town, not just focus on downtown Southern Pines, even though our downtown is important.”
The controversy erupted Feb. 14 when Chairman Greg Zywocinski walked out of the commission’s monthly meeting, and Vice Chairman Bud Wallen, Andrea Wise-Leech, Suzy Morgan and Joyce White all submitted their resignations the next day. Ed Garrison, who was appointed to the commission last month, subsequently resigned as well.
All but Garrison claimed the Town Council had politicized the appointment process.
The former commission members were upset because they claimed the Town Council did not seek their input before appointing three new members — Garrison, Carol Haney (wife of former Mayor Mike Haney) and Bertha Shaw — to replace longtime commission members Blanche Woodruff (wife of former Councilman David Woodruff), Joyce Jackson and Lester Seidenberg, whose terms had expired.
In addition, White was reappointed to a second term, and Zywocinski, who had served three terms, was granted another year because he had just been appointed chairman.
The council recently decided to enforce a two-term limit for members of volunteer entities, making the Appearance Commission the last to be brought in line.
In the recent past, the 13-member commission sent its recommendations to the council for approval.
McNeill said that he believes the council “would have preferred” that the disgruntled members stay on the commission.
“Could it have been handled better? Absolutely,” McNeill said. “But I didn’t ask for their resignations. “We’re at a point now where we have to move forward, do the work of the town and find people to fill these vacancies. We’re open to recommendations and suggestions from anyone.”
The Appearance Commission studies the visual problems and needs of the town as well as the extraterritorial planning-zoning jurisdiction (ETJ). Of its 13 members, 10 are residents of the town and the other three are residents of Moore County within the ETJ.
“I think there are a lot of good people in Southern Pines who will step forward and have an interest in serving the town in such a capacity,” McNeill said. “We’ve had some people call who are considering applying.”
Commission member Vince Zucchino said it’s going to be “a hard sell.”
“Working on the commission requires a more creative mentality, and it’s been hard to recruit those kinds of creative minds,” Zucchino said. “Generally speaking, we’re in the trenches and know what type of people and skills that we’re missing when it comes to filling vacancies.”
He believes that the commission got so caught up in its work that it didn’t “fully understand” the ramifications of “the council’s interest in term limits.”
“It’s hard to find qualified people to serve, so you want to hold on to them,” Zucchino said. “It’s not a rogue board. We’re not arrogant. None of us ever assumed that the council would rubber stamp all of our recommendations.”
Still, he believes that the commission was running like “a smooth engine” before the controversy.
“The people were passionate,” he said. “Everyone was happy. We had a really good Super Bowl team and it got messed up. That is what really upset me. I’m sorry we lost some good people, but let’s move on. Let’s get back to work.”
The commission meets again March 13.
Contact Ted Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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