P&Z Problems, Questions Mount in Camden County

The following editorial was written by Second District Camden County Commissioner, Cliff Luber.

It’s one thing to require that citizens comply with the Unified Land Use Code (ULUC) regarding Planning & Zoning, but why does P&Z not follow their own rules?

The ULUC Art. 302, subsection (3) states: ” At its regularly scheduled meeting in January of each year, the Planning Commission SHALL by a majority vote of its membership (excluding vacant seats) elect one of its members to serve as Chairman to preside over all meetings and one member as Vice-Chair who will preside in the event the Chairman is un able to.” There should have been a vote to elect a Chairman and Vice-Chair at its meeting last January. In reviewing the minutes, there was no mention of an election. It raises potential legal questions on the current legitimacy of the P&Z Board.

Prior to the February 19th P&Z meeting, the Planning & Zoning Administrator complained to Commissioner Thomas regarding the manner in which Art. 800 was being introduced by Mr. Franken, in particular coming from one commissioner rather than the Planning Commission. The Planning & Zoning Administrator then stated a sudden reversal in the P&Z meeting and claimed to have asked Commissioner Franken to write it, months ago. (See audio from February 19th P&Z Meeting) Since the P&Z Administrator now “claims” he requested Commissioner Franken rewrite Art. 800, and the anticipation of receiving such a re-write, when does P&Z anticipate the forming of a review committee?
Art. 1402 of the ULUC states: Whenever a request to amend the Unified Land Use Code or the Zoning Map is initiated by the County Commission, The Planning Commission, or the Board Of Adjustment, the Planning Administrator, in consultation with legal counsel, shall draft the appropriate language and present it to the Planning Commission so that a date for a public hearing may be established.” It appears evident Mr. Franken does not have the authority to request/submit a change to the ULUC without a request/vote by the County Commission. There was no such meeting or vote.

Section 1402, subsection (2) does allow for a citizen to request a change to the ULUC, providing they fill out the proper Planning & Zoning paperwork, and pay a ridiculous fee of $1,000.00. Given Mr. Franken is an elected official, I do not believe he qualifies as a citizen in respect to requesting a change through that venue.

In Art. 1402, It appears the P&Z Administrator does not possess the authority to request of a Commissioner, or anyone to rewrite any portion of the ULUC. It states the Planning & Zoning Administrator, in consultation with legal counsel, shall draft the appropriate language and present it to the Planning Commission.

The ULUC requirement for a County Commission, Planning Commission, or Board Of Adjustment, to make such a request to the Planning Administrator, is intended to not allow a government of one to submit a unilateral request that could be either beneficial or negatively prejudicial on a citizen(s) or business in this community. These three entities are each a board and there is a reason it specifies such. It’s called checks and balances.

There are many issues regarding Art. 800, and certainly to not discuss them as a Commission of three and only be given five business days to give additions/deletions through an email vs. commissioner meetings, is not acceptable. Any rewrite of this importance requires an extensive dialogue.

The Commission has also recently received more incidents where land was mis-zoned by Camden County and property owners were requesting their land be properly zoned. I brought this to Mr. Franken’s attention as early as March, over a year ago, with several examples. He refused to take any action to assist the citizens of Camden County. (Listen to May,10th audio of the County Commission meeting)

These landowners were forced to pay an $ 800.00 rezoning fee to come into compliance due to Camden County incorrectly designating the proper land use. This is simply unfair to citizens and inhibits business growth. As more mis-zoned properties are coming to light, Mr. Franken and P&Z are having to admit the widespread problem. Planning & Zoning last month finally suggested a future policy change, but to date they have not taken any action.

Last week Commissioner Thomas and myself have taken the initiative to put together a draft to change the ULUC, to include no fees where the county is in error. We will be discussing and voting on it at the Tuesday Commissioner’s meeting. Upon approval and under Art. 1402 of the ULUC, The Commission will then make a request to the P&Z Commission for approval.

Rules should apply the same to everyone, not just some. Another recent discovery of Mr. Franken waiving fees was on February 11, 2013, for a Board of Adjustment hearing, which would cost any other citizen $500.00.He clearly waived the fees. There wasn’t any meeting, or vote, just a government of one deciding.

It is important to be honest and transparent to the citizens. These rules are in place for a reason. The citizens of this county elected me a year and a half ago with the motto “Vote Yourself A Voice” and as the 2nd District Commissioner I will continue to be their advocate in Camden County Govt.

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One thought on “P&Z Problems, Questions Mount in Camden County

  1. Thank you Teresa Townsend for bringing attention to the rules, regulations and statues that pertain to P&Z. Maybe now they will start doing what they were elected to do!

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