Board may get new look

Published 8:46 pm Thursday, September 4, 2008

By Staff
Population growthin Bath’s ETJ couldbring changes
Staff Writer
The Bath Planning Board could be getting an infusion of new blood.
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners has asked for a recount of how many Planning Board members represent residents of the town’s extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction — the ring of land around Bath subject to the town’s development regulations.
The board has two members from the ETJ and four from the town. Jim Smith, who lives in the town, resigned at the end of the board’s August meeting, fellow board member Ike Baldree said.
Some county commissioners suspect that the area just outside Bath has continued to grow faster than the town, while the board’s composition has remained unaltered.
The Mid-East Commission is examining the law and doing the math, and it should have an answer for the county commissioners by the time they meet Monday, said County Manager Paul Spruill.
If the difference is substantial enough, the Planning Board might see extra members from the ETJ added to its roster.
The county commissioners had asked about Washington’s Planning Board as well, but Spruill said he thinks a recent rebalancing of the board has solved that issue.
But if Bath does have to add people from outside the town to the Planning Board, there’s an easy solution to at least part of the problem, Baldree said.
And that might make a difference on key questions in front of a board that has drawn significant controversy in recent months over issues such as bulkheads.
At its August meeting, county commissioners voted to support the reappointment of Buck Sitterson and Jack Piland to the Planning Board.
The commissioners had deferred the decision a month in order to determine who Sitterson, the Planning Board’s chairman, and Piland were and how they had voted on key issues.
Commissioner Hood Richardson had initially opposed the reappointment, on the grounds that Bath’s Planning Board had been too restrictive of late. Once commissioners looked at the two, who came before the county board because they represent people living outside Bath proper, they were accepted by the county commissioners.
The only two members of the Planning Board from the ETJ, neither Piland nor Sitterson had supported a proposed moratorium on bulkheads that came out of the Planning Board.
But Baldree said that votes often come down to more than who’s from the town and who’s from the ETJ. He pointed out that he had also opposed the moratorium.
A recent two-part proposal to alter which types of businesses are allowed in the heart of Bath saw support and opposition from both sides of the town limits, Baldree said.
Sayer worries that an influx of board members from outside the town could put the town’s fate in the hands of those living around, rather than in, it.
She said it’s important for the town to protect its quaintness and the historic district. To make sure that happens, she said, the county commissioners should try for a solution that guarantees the town’s sovereignty.
The proposed bulkhead moratorium and the reworking of the business zone were part of an effort to revamp the town’s zoning laws.
The Planning Board only proposes recommended changes to the town’s zoning laws. The town’s commissioners then make the final decision.
At next month’s meeting, the Planning Board is expected to consider the zoning of the town’s waterways, one of a handful of key issues the board is addressing before continuing its long slog through the minutia of development regulation.