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Second Public Official Says CH Planning Board Chair Should Resign

By Ran Northam Posted March 4, 2013 at 10:16 pm
CHAPEL HILL – Yet another public official has asked for the resignation of Chapel Hill Planning Board Chair Del Snow.

 

“I feel the chair of the Planning Board has stepped over the line of suing the Town over a development agreement that she disagrees with,” Chapel Hill Town Council member Gene Pease says. “I think it’s inappropriate and I don’t think she can be unbiased in her decision making in future developments while there’s a pending lawsuit where she’s one of the leaders in the lawsuit and organizing the neighborhood.”

In response to a letter by Snow to the Council asking why the Bicycle Apartments were not delayed further in a vote last week, Pease replied with a letter stating her personal opinions too often make way into the Town’s planning decisions.

“I don’t have an issue with any advisory board or commission member disagreeing or not agreeing to any kind of development agreement,” Pease says. “I don’t have any issue with a citizen suing somebody or the Town over a disagreement. I think those are all our rights.”

In late October, residents of Chapel Hill sued the Town over the Charterwood project—which abuts Snow’s property—after the Council approved the development in September. The lawsuit stated that the Superior Court of Orange County should review the Town’s decision and that the development would be an inconvenience to its neighbors.

Pease says as a member of the Planning Board, and especially the chair of the Board, it’s hard for him to see how she can be a part of that lawsuit.

“I’m not comfortable with not speaking up on it,” Pease says. “I think there’s an ethical line that’s been crossed. The essence of my email back to her (Monday) was to ask her to resign her position on the Planning Board.”

He says he feels it’s important to understand how far is too far.

“I don’t have an issue with any other Planning Board member unless they’re a participant in a lawsuit on a development issue against the Town,” Pease says.

Snow’s letter regarding the Bicycle Apartments stated that the Council brought up “legitimate concerns” about the project that should have been answered with “fact-based data” but instead were overlooked and the development was approved.

However, Pease stated multiple times in his response that “fact-based data” has often been a request from Snow. He says that term is often misused “by amateurs trying to sway an argument that is primarily based on their personal bias.” He added that “in our town the term has been greatly overused.”

“They use a word about not being against development, but being for smart development,” Pease says. “When I talked to them about being able to define that, I can’t get a clear definition of what they mean.”

He says these requests often don’t leave any options to further Town development.

“They don’t want our taxes raised,” Pease says. “They don’t want our services cut. But yet there’s a group in town that consistently rallies citizens and close neighborhoods to speak out against development. I can’t figure out how to have the balance in town we need.”

In late December, former council member and current Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich wrote a letter to Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt stating Snow should hand in her resignation.

Click here to read the full story.

Snow had appeared before the Board of Commissioners earlier in the month to voice her objections to the County bus and rail plan. In doing so, she identified herself as the Planning Board chair and cited the Board’s opinions on long-range transportation planning.

Rich argued this amounted to an over-reach of power, but Mayor Kleinschmidt appeared at the next Planning Board meeting to clear the air of the conversations he said were occurring through local media instead of face to face.

Mayor Kleinschmidt stated it was perfectly fine to have an opinion, and fine to credential oneself when the time is appropriate. However, he made it clear that the Planning Board is an advisory board and that the final say goes to the Council.

Click here to read the full story.

Pease says he’s had this concern for some time, but it wasn’t his place to speak up during the conversation over Snow’s visit to Orange County. He says since he wasn’t at the meeting, he didn’t have first-hand knowledge of what took place.

“I waited and this thing was festering with me,” Pease says. “The email she sent last week just kind of was the tipping point I guess. I felt I needed to speak up.”

Regardless of the Mayor’s comments and what role Snow says she is able to play on the Planning Board, Pease says he doesn’t see her performing that role properly anymore.

“I’m not at all complaining or it bothers me that we got sued,” Pease says. “That’s the right of somebody to do that. But to be part of the development process, I don’t know how somebody that’s suing us could be unbiased in future recommendations to the council and that’s where I think an ethical line’s been drawn.”

Snow was not available for comment on the matter Monday evening.

Click here to read Del Snow’s letter to the Town Council.

Click here to read Gene Pease’s response to Snow.

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