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Humphrey calls for fewer planning commissioners, offers alternate nominees

Humphrey copy

Filling vacancies on the Carter County Planning Commission – and even the number of individuals who should serve on that board – became a point of contention during a meeting of the nominating committee Tuesday night.
When the subject of making appointments to the Planning Commission came up, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey said the committee should consider reducing the number of members from 12 to nine, one for each of the county’s eight districts, and include the chairman of the County Commission – himself.
Planning Director Chris Scheuttler said the Planning Commission was created by a private act and to alter the make up of the commission would require that private act to be amended. He added that the private act to create the commission was passed in 1972 and laid out specifically the positions and how they were to be filled.
According to Scheuttler, the Planning Commission must have a representative of each of the county’s school districts on the board and include the chair of the County Commission, four members of the County Commission and other individuals from the community, such as Realtors, property owners and business owners.
Humphrey said because the county has eight educational districts which coincide with the commission districts, lowering the number of members on the Planning Commission to nine would still comply with the private act.
“The private act would not have to be amended, in my opinion,” Humphrey said.
Scheuttler said when the private act was passed in 1972, Carter County had only four educational districts, not eight. He continued, saying when the county underwent the redistricting process – creating eight educational districts – some of the boundary lines changed, but the private act did not.
The planning director said he had spoken with the County Technical Assistance Service regarding changing the makeup of the Planning Commission and he was given a legal opinion that any changes would require the county to amend the private act.
Members of the nominating committee asked County Attorney Joshua Hardin for his opinion, but he said he would have to research the matter further.
“You’re going to have to pass a resolution at minimum and it may require amending the private act,” Hardin said, adding any amendment to the act would have to be sent to Nashville for state approval. “That is a very lengthy process that could last months and months and months.”
“If you want my opinion, the private act needs to be updated,” he added.
Scheuttler also voiced concerns over having the Planning Commission made up entirely of members of the County Commission.
“The private act was created to keep politics out of the development of the county,” he said.
Scheuttler said, per state law, the vacancies on the Planning Commission were advertised in the newspaper with a directive for those interested to submit their interest to the Planning Office. From those applicants, Scheuttler said he filled the vacancies so they would fall in line with the provisions of the private act and he presented the recommendations to the committee.
Humphrey said he had asked members of the County Commission to submit their interest in the Planning Commission to his office and he also had a list of names, many of whom were not on the list Scheuttler had. The mayor said, in the interest of fairness, all of the interested individuals should be given an opportunity to serve on the Planning Commission.
Scheuttler responded, saying he had attempted to obtain a copy of the mayor’s list but was not able to reach anyone in the Mayor’s office on Tuesday. He said he needed a copy of the list in order to plot the addresses of those individuals into the map of the 1972 districts to see if the interested commissioners resided in the proper area to comply with the private act.
Humphrey said the reason Scheuttler was unable to reach anyone was because his administrative assistant was out of the office Tuesday. He added that just following the recommendations made by Scheuttler wasn’t fair to those commissioners who had expressed their interest in writing to the mayor’s office.
Committee member Sonja Culler made a motion to accept the recommendations of the planning Commission, which was seconded by L.C. Tester. The motion failed on a tie vote of 4-4.
Humphrey then suggested the committee postpone the decision on the Planning Commission appointments until Scheuttler had time to plot the addresses of the other interested parties to see if they met the district requirements.
Scheuttler said a delay would be harmful to the operation of the Planning Commission and the county.
“We’ve already had to cancel one meeting because of the appointments,” Scheuttler said. “And we need to have a special called meeting to go over things with the attorney to bring to the full commission.”
During an exchange between Scheuttler and Humphrey, Tester took issue with the mayor’s involvement in the discussion. “You are not even on this committee. Why are you giving all these opinions?” Tester asked the Mayor. Humphrey responded he would continue to give opinions “as long as the chair will allow.” Committee chairman Ronnie Trivett made no response to either statement.
Lewis made a motion to postpone the decision until the committee’s next meeting on Oct. 13 and to direct Scheuttler to plot the additional list of names. The motion was seconded by Brown and passed on a vote of 5-3.