Newly minted county commissioner (and former Chapel Hill Town Council member) Penny Rich just sent a letter (quoted in its entirety below) to Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. In it she takes strong exception to the behavior of Chapel Hill Planning Board chair Del Snow, who attended a county commissioners meeting last month to speak against the implementation of the Orange County transit plan. (See OP's live coverage of the meeting and discussion of the transit vote.)
While I wholeheartedly share Penny's concerns about Del misrepresenting the town, her call for the town to remove Del from the Planning Board will probably provoke a defensive response about municipal sovereignty, which will make it politically difficult for the town to actually do anything about it. Frankly I'm even more bothered that someone in a position of planning leadership such as Del is working to undermine the large-scale community transportation planning that is so critical to our future. Either way I'd like to see some new leaders on the Planning Board, preferably who appreciate both planning and process. But only the Chapel Hill Town Counil can make that happen.
December 29, 2012
At the Orange County Board of County Commissioner meeting on December 11, 2012, Items 6, 6a, and 6b on the agenda referred to the Transit Implementation Resolutions (http://www.co.orange.nc.us/occlerks/121211.pdf). As you know, the citizens of Orange County voted in favor of the ½ cent transit sales tax that appeared on the November 2012 ballot.
Ten people signed up to speak at the public hearing portion of the agenda item.
Del Snow, was the third speaker and identified herself as the chair of the Chapel Hill Planning Board. Ms. Snow reported that the planning board is pro-transit but did not support the MPO’s long-term transit plan. She told the BOCC that the planning board unanimously voted against the plan, but did not share any details about the conversations regarding the vote. She talked about the data, growth numbers, small area plans and the 2020 Comprehensive plan. Ms. Snow shared opinion after opinion from the planning board, all against the transit plan and the implementation of the ½ cent tax. Ms. Snow repeated that she is the chair of the Planning Board a number of times and never stated that she was speaking as an Orange County citizen.
In my opinion this was highly unusual for the Planning Board chair of one governing body to come and speak in front of another governing body unless asked to do so by council. It is my understanding that neither you nor council gave Ms. Snow instructions to represent the town on this matter.
In light of this over-reach of power and the pending law suit by Ms. Snow against the Town of Chapel Hill, I think it is appropriate that council ask her to resign her position on the Planning Board. Ms. Snow’s interests are in conflict with the town and the citizens of Chapel Hill and I don’t see how she can vote on issues to move the 2020 Comprehensive plan forward given her stated positions.
Thank you for your consideration on this matter.
Commissioner Penny Rich
Orange County Board of Commissioners