Committee named to explain vote that rebuffed 20-year plan

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Panel meets next Monday evening

Marshall County Commission Chairman Sam Smith has appointed a seven-man committee to provide an explanation on why the commission rejected the proposed 20-year growth plan on where municipalities may annex land.

"We'll meet on the 10th at 5 p.m. at the Annex," Chairman Smith said Monday about the special panel's time on Tuesday in the Marshall County Courthouse Annex on the public square in Lewisburg. Smith is on the committee.

Changes to the county's 20-year growth plan were rejected on March 26 with a 10-8 vote. Commissioners had received a recommendation from the county's Coordinating Committee that has representatives from the county and its municipalities. Coordinating committee members had met frequently since early last fall to accommodate a request from Lewisburg officials who wanted to update their urban growth area.

Most of the members of the special panel voted against approving the plan and they include Commissioners Dean Delk, Rocky Bowden, Mickey King, Scotty Porch and Sam Smith. Commissioners E.W. Hill and Jimmy Stitt voted against the 20-year plan and are on the special panel.

Those commissioners' discussion next Tuesday evening will probably be the basis for a report to be prepared by Don Nelson, the county's building officer who's been a staff liaison between th county government and the coordinating committee, Smith said, indicating Nelson's report may become the vehicle for the commission's statement to the coordinating committee on why changes to the growth plan were rejected.

The commission is obliged to provide such a report, said Smith, who appointed the panel after having been empowered to do so by the commission when it met on March 26.

That Monday night, some county leaders speculated that the plan was rejected because the urban growth area around Chapel Hill was still too big. It had been reduced twice. Questions were also raised about another urban growth area, but public outcry at county meetings were mostly about Chapel Hill. Such urban growth areas are defined by an urban growth boundary beyond which annexation is illegal without another change to the 20-year plan.

Chapel Hill Mayor Carl Cooper has repeatedly stated that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen won't annex land without a landowner's request, but some area residents have continued their opposition to the town's urban growth area.

Asked on Monday night if he had any comment about the creation of the panel or the commission's vote, Cooper replied, "I have nothing to add to it. I have nothing to contribute to their work."

Cooper, who has been a member of the coordinating committee, was also asked if he'd attend the panel's meeting on Monday. It appeared obvious that he didn't plan to attend Monday's meeting. Which starts half an hour before his town board normally meets.

Also reached for comment on Chairman Smith's appointments was Bowden, one of the commissioners who voted against the 20-year plan.

"I'd rather wait and meet with the committee and have a separate report," said Bowden who also serves as chairman of the Marshall County Board of Public Utilities.

However, Bowden did explain the procedural fact that the commission must "give the committee a reason for the rejection...

"There will be several reasons that will come out in the report," Bowden predicted. "It will be comprehensive and complete."

Bowden expressed confidence in Nelson's ability to deliver the panel's report to the coordinating committee.