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Opinion Letters A response to Haven

Comissioner Haven:

A copy of your recent correspondence to your fellow commissioners and selected supporters has been circulated to inform the citizens of Macon County of your views on the Macon County Planning Board. In my personal experience your comments are biased, prejudicial, and far from accurate. You have made a nasty, personal attack on Lewis Penland, a man that has served the citizens of Macon County honorably and well far longer than you have been in office. As a lifelong voting Republican I was proud to vote for and work with Commissioner Corbin’s father; however, I am severely disappointed with the current Board of Commissioners. Eliminating the Planning Board as a key advisory board is not the answer we need.

Your words describing the Planning Board as a “dictator” shows that you do not understand the charter and responsibility of this important, all-volunteer board. Sir, the Planning Board cannot dictate anything – it can only recommend. You and your fellow commissioners have the final and only decision authority to accept or reject the board’s recommendations. The Planning Board does not ignore “what the people say” as you stated; however, it does solicit and listen to a wide range of Macon County citizen input – not just yours or those of your supporters. Your statements ignore years of valuable contributions to Macon County and the numerous congratulations and gratitude expressed to Planning Board members, including Lewis Penland, by your predecessors on previous Boards of Commissioners. Your statements stand alone and in opposition to all others.

I also support the concept and protection of individual property rights in America. However, unlike you, I understand that my individual property rights STOP being my decision alone when the things I might choose to do start to infringe on the rights or property of other citizens. Today, in Macon County and throughout America this infringement is the point where regulations have become necessary to protect the common good and property of the citizenry. By the way, Mr. Haven, requiring someone building in a hazardous location to do more to ensure the safety of themselves and others is not a “surrender of their property rights”. Nothing recommended by the Planning Board prevents anyone from using their property or building in a hazardous location. Your inflammatory language describing the Planning Board indicates that you either do not understand or do not agree with the need for local governments to protect the public safety and common good of the majority. If this is so, why did you run for office?

Members of the Planning Board, as well as all other citizen advisory boards and committees in Macon County, volunteer their time and talents to assist you and your fellow commissioners as representatives of the people. In the case of the Planning Board, the members you now attack as “the board” have worked selflessly for years trying to strike a practical balance between individual freedoms and regulations for Macon County citizens. In recent years the Planning Board has traveled to local communities throughout Macon County numerous times to make it easier for the citizens to attend presentations of the board’s developing thinking and to express their thoughts. While the board’s recommendations made on some subjects have been controversial and much debated, they were developed because of real concerns for public safety. You apparently describe the regulating of development in hazardous locations as “making the citizens surrender their property rights” whereas I, and many others, see the same recommendations as being necessary to protect the safety and the property rights of the other people who live downslope of hazardous building locations. In light of the Peaks Creek tragedy which initiated many of the recent planning recommendations, it would seem that you would prefer to let nature take its course rather than to attempt to prevent future damages and losses. Your approach; i.e., to do nothing, is a tragedy in itself when the experience and knowledge of potential danger exists and has been presented to the Board of Commissioners and the Planning Board by experts and state agencies.

With respect to your negative comments directed personally at Mr. Lewis Penland, you are also wrong. Mr. Penland may not agree with your views, but there can be no doubt about his personal dedication and efforts on behalf of the citizens of Macon County. When you stated, “When you can’t hear what the people say and you keep a blind eye turned to our citizens it is time to do something.” You apparently mean that Mr. Penland and the board did not agree with you and your supporters. It was not that you were not heard. It was that the needs for public safety and the common good of the majority outweighed the opposing viewpoints. Mr. Penland’s service to Macon County has been outstanding. Having worked with him and the Planning Board on several initiatives I have always found Lewis Penland to be a capable leader and dedicated Planning Board Chairperson. Lewis Penland certainly deserves to be appointed to another term on the Planning Board - if he is willing to serve again and to ignore the negative and personal attacks. I suggest that you owe him a personal apology for your derisive remarks distributed to the other commissioners, Planning Board members, and selected citizens.

Bob Wright — Highlands, N.C.





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