For years, it has been an unwritten rule in Elbert County that members of the Board of County Commissioners not attend Elbert County Planning Commission meetings, and for years, members of the BOCC have stayed away. Recently a series of miscommunications, fueled by rumors and innuendo, has created tension between the two bodies.
In an effort to foster a better relationship, the BOCC and the planning commission held a joint meeting at the County Administration Building on March 4. Facilitated by Ed Ehmann, county manager, discussions centered on enhancing communication and improving the relationship.
“My suggestion is that we have a member of the BOCC come to a planning commission meeting and just watch what happens, so they can be familiar with how we do business,” said Bob Ware, planning commission member.
Wade Gateley, county attorney, has been reviewing the issue. He said it would be fine for commissioners to attend the meetings under certain conditions.
“A commissioner would not be precluded from coming to a (planning commission) meeting,” Gateley said. “A commissioner would be precluded from asking any questions or asserting any positions, but other than that, I think it is part of the process. I don't see that it would be improper in any way.”
Gateley also cautioned that it might be wise for only one commissioner to attend at a time. If two attended, it might be construed as a quorum under the Colorado Sunshine Laws. In addition, if anyone were to assert a conflict of interest and a commissioner were forced to recuse him or herself, two commissioners would still be eligible to decide the matter.
Kyle Fenner, Elbert County's community and development director, saw the development as a step in the right direction.
“The fact that one commissioner would attend a meeting has literally filled a void,” Fenner said. “I think you will be amazed at what that little thing will change.”
The community and development office will also begin providing an application tracking sheet that the groups believe will improve communication without creating a conflict of interest.
District I Commissioner Robert Rowland sees the interaction in two parts. In the past months, the BOCC has asked the planning commission to provide recommendations for amendments to the county's zoning laws, and since the BOCC is ultimately responsible for approval of new laws and regulations, Rowland felt that communication should flow more freely regarding their creation or modification. When it came to the application of the zoning laws, such as land use, Rowland felt it would be better if the BOCC were more reticent.
Finally, the BOCC and the planning commission will hold quarterly meetings to resolve issues that might arise. The meetings are not expected to include details regarding specific applications.