Questions surround resolution to downsize Planning Commission

Published 5:54 pm Friday, May 12, 2017

When the Carter County Commission meets on Monday evening, its members may, or may not, be discussing a resolution to downsize the Carter County Planning Commission.

A resolution “to fix the number and terms of the members who serve on the Carter County Planning Commission” is on the agenda for the meeting, but there is some question among County officials as to whether or not the resolution should be presented to the full Commission for a vote at this time.

During the Planning Commission’s April 25 meeting, the group voted 6-4 to send the proposed resolution back to County Attorney Josh Hardin to make suggested changes. The changes approved by the group would downsize the Planning Commission from 12 members to nine, and would limit the number of elected officials on the board to “no more than two” members of the County Commission plus the County Commission chairman.

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After the resolution was changed by Hardin, it was to be presented to the Planning Commission for final approval before forwarding it on to the full County Commission.

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey placed the resolution on the agenda for the May 15 meeting of the County Commission, but the updated resolution has not yet been presented back to the Planning Commission.

Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler contacted Hardin regarding the resolution being placed on the agenda for the full County Commission as well as another question regarding the resolution.

“The first issue seems to be whether or not the Resolution was supposed to be advanced to the full Commission this month at all,” Hardin stated in a letter sent in response to Schuettler’s inquiry. “Pursuant to your letter, and apparently the minutes of the Planning Commission meeting, and also pursuant to the article published in the Tuesday, April 25, 2017, in the Elizabethton Star, the committee voted 6-4 to have me amend the pertinent portion of the Resolution and return the same to the Planning Commission at its next meeting.”

“Thus it appears that the Resolution was not approved to be considered by the County Commission at its meeting this month,” Hardin continued. “Therefore, on that basis alone I would recommend to the Commission that consideration of the Resolution be removed from the meeting agenda and no vote be taken on the Resolution this month because it was not properly advanced for their consideration.”

The second question posed by Schuettler to Hardin deals with the number of votes needed to pass the motion by the Planning Commission to forward the resolution back to Hardin for amendments.

The bylaws of the County Commission state that in order for a motion to pass it must be approved by a majority of the total number of members of the body, not simply a majority of those present.

There are 12 members currently of the Planning Commission, which if the same rules applies means that at least seven votes are needed to approve a matter. However, at the April 25 meeting, only 10 members were present with a majority of that number — six — voting in favor of amending the resolution.

Hardin tells Schuettler in his letter that the issue of how many votes constitute a majority has been an ongoing issue in various committees of county government. Hardin said the rule governing how the majority is calculated in the full County Commission does not necessarily extend to committees of the legislative body or the Planning Commission, which was established by Private Act.

“The Planning Commission has never voted to set up rules about how votes are to be taken, although I feel it has the power to do,” Hardin said in the letter. “Obviously, I think the Planning Commission needs to adopt rules going forward on this issue, and potentially the full County Commission needs to amend its procedural rules to make sure this is clear.”

“I say this because I have been present at various committee meetings where this issue has been interpreted in different fashions and I have never specifically been asked to address it.”

Also on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the County Commission is a resolution to approve the Carter County Highway Department completing a project with the Carter County School System at Keenburg Elementary School.

The County Commission is slated to meet on Monday, May 15, at 6 p.m. in the courtroom located on the second floor of the Carter County Courthouse.