The Macon County Commissioners and the Planning Board met at a local restaurant in Franklin last Thursday to discuss the future of planning throughout the county.
Over the past few months, Macon County’s Planning Board has fallen under scrutiny, and after a four-month hiatus from its monthly meetings, reconvened to meet with commissioners. Board of commissioner chairman Kevin Corbin began the joint meeting noting that because of the diligence on behalf of the Planning Board, Macon County is on the forefront of economic development and progress.
“I think we have identified that we want to plan for the future by looking at how we as a county can help our builders and citizens and not be a hindrance in any way. I think everyone has agreed with that,” said Corbin.
New Planning Board member, Chris Hanners was introduced at the meeting. Hanners was appointed during last month's Commissioners Board meeting. “He is new to the Planning Board and is a structural engineer by profession,” said Corbin. “He does primarily structural engineering work on residential and indicated that he also does some commercial structural engineering work. Being in his 30s, Chris brings some youth and new energy to the Planning Board.”
Town Planner Derek Roland has also transitioned to a new role with the Planning Board. Roland, who left his position as county planner last month to replace Mike Grubermann as town planner for Franklin, was appointed to represent the town on the Planning Board.
Liaison to the Planning Board, County Commissioner Jimmy Tate spoke to the dedication of both boards working for residents of Macon County. Tate, who served on the Planning Board prior to being appointed to commissioner said, “Each of you sitting here tonight deeply love this county, which we all call home or you wouldn’t be taking the time to sit here this evening, and if we can all find it within ourselves to try and respectfully work together, listen to each other, and try to understand each other’s reasoning, then we will be able to make our home a better place not only for us, but also for the many future generations that are rapidly approaching.”
Moving forward, commissioners identified a tentative list of tasks for the Planning Board to review. The first task the Planning Board was charged with was the review of the Macon County Subdivision Ordinance. Commissioners asked the Planning Board to provide recommendations of potential areas of improvements to the ordinance in the near future. “We request that the Planning Board work together as a team to reach a legitimate compromise on potential changes,” reads a memo sent from the board of commissioners to the Planning Board. “The Board of Commissioners will then review the recommended improvements and possibly direct the Macon County Attorney to write or re-write the ordinance or regulation for consideration at a public hearing for potential approval.”
Commissioners also directed the Planning Board to begin considering reviewing ordinances such as soil erosion and sedimentation control, sign ordinance, high impact ordinance, watershed protection, comprehensive planning and others deemed appropriate by the board.
“We have set a good direction by having the Planning Board begin reviewing the Subdivision Ordinance. There have been several issues identified by the planning department that have been less than user friendly for the public,” noted Corbin. “Derek Roland and Jack Morgan have that list. They will complete their review and then pass it to us for review. The changes we deem necessary will be given to our attorney Chester Jones for implementation.”
In order to ensure that Planning Board is providing the best services to Macon County, commissioners and Planning Board members agreed to have county attorney Chester Jones become more involved in the Planning Board's evaluation of the ordinances and provide additional legal guidance while they work to establish and improve ordinances in the county.
According to Corbin, commissioners hope to remove the negative stigma that has become attached to planning. “For some reason folks sometime think that ‘Planning’ means ordinances or regulation. That is certainly a small part of it, but it is so much more,” he said. “I plan for my insurance business every day and it has nothing to do with regulation, but where I want to be five, 10, or 15 years from now.”
Aside from reviewing various ordinances throughout the county, Corbin noted that the Planning Board needs to look at long term growth and expansion.
“We need to be planning our infrastructure.
We have historically done well in long range planning on schools. With that piece of the puzzle done, we need to be planning on the future of our water and sewer (coordinating with the towns) talking about planning for issues like our recreation opportunities,” said Corbin. “This is one I am particularly interested in. By planning for the long range, you can actually save money by not having all your improvements come due at one time. Until we started a long range plan with the schools back in the ’90s, there had not been a lot of long range planning done, so a lot of needs came due at one time. Planning means ‘planning.’ This includes thinking out-loud and having conversations with all interested parties. Reviewing our ordinances and determining what is fair is certainly needed, but means looking to the future and determining future needs and strategies.”
The next scheduled meeting of the Planning Board will be held on May 15, at which time board members will establish a list of concerns regarding which ordinances are in need of review.