The Elbert County Planning Commission has chosen, for a second time, to postpone a vote on the final version of its bylaws, which is now slated to occur at the group's meeting on Dec. 16.
The continuation from the meeting on Dec. 2 occurred as the planning commission made significant revisions to the original draft and wanted a “clean” copy before giving approval to the document it began working on in November.
An area of contention was language in the document giving the Board of County Commissioners final approval of the planning commission's bylaws. The discussion became heated between planning commission member Rick Brown and Wade Gateley, attorney to the BOCC and author of the original draft.
“I don't see that the BOCC has any role in the planning commission,” Brown said, referring to language stating that the BOCC would have final say in the wording of the bylaws.
Brown, a retired attorney, asserted that the statutes are on the side of the planning commission, allowing it to create its own bylaws without the need for approval by the BOCC. Gateley strongly disagreed.
Planning commission member Tony Baker agreed with Brown's assessment, stating that just as the county commissioners are elected as the people's representatives, the members of the planning commission are appointed as representatives of the BOCC and may act independently.
The BOCC directive to create bylaws comes in response to recommendations made during the 2013 financial audit. Kim Higgins, a partner at of Eide Bailly, the accounting firm retained by the county to audit its annual financial statements, recommended that the county continue to standardize its business practices.
According to Kurt Schlegel, county commissioner for District 2, bylaws were requested from multiple offices within county government in order to formalize and structure practices.
“We are establishing these (bylaws) to clarify the authority and rules for conducting county business, so that each department understands what the rules are,” Schlegel said following a BOCC study session on Nov. 26.
The final document without the provision for BOCC approval will most likely be passed at the next planning commission meeting on Dec. 16. It will then be forwarded to the BOCC. No one on the planning commission was certain what would happen next if the document failed to meet the BOCC's approval. There is no formal protocol in place for such an occurrence.
Gateley said that he and the BOCC would need to evaluate the entire document before they could make a decision about how to respond.
When asked how the board might respond, Larry Ross, commissioner for District 3, said, “Then we sit down like gentlemen, like we are supposed to, and work things out.”
The Elbert County Planning Commission consists of nine members appointed by the Board of County Commissioners for three-year terms to hear and make recommendations on land-use cases including rezoning, special uses, vacations, special district service plans, and subdivision plats. Their recommendations are sent to the BOCC, which has the final authority.
Three of the nine seats on the commission remain vacant while the BOCC decides if the number of seats will remain the same or be reduced.