Chapel Hill councilman: Planning Board chair should resign

tgrubb@newsobserver.comMarch 5, 2013 

— Town Council member Gene Pease has become the second local leader in two months to ask the town’s Planning Board chairwoman to resign.

In a March 3 letter, Pease said he has “very little confidence in the Board’s ability to weigh development applications fairly,” especially under Chairwoman Del Snow’s leadership.

The Planning Board first elected Snow chairwoman in August 2011. She is serving her second, one-year term; board members can only serve two consecutive terms as chairman. Snow’s three-year Planning Board appointment expires in 2015.

In his letter, Pease also cited Snow’s role in a lawsuit challenging the planned Charterwood mixed-use development on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that the Town Council approved last year .

“You have shown a pattern of bias in your decision making on the Planning Board. There is a major ethical line that has been crossed with the filing of the lawsuit, therefore I respectfully ask you to resign from the Planning Board,” Pease wrote in the letter.

Snow, whose house is next to the Charterwood site, has steadfastly opposed the project, signing a protest petition last year. In April, she recused herself from the Planning Board’s vote.

Snow also objected to the Town Council’s approval last week of the Bicycle Apartments project, at 602 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. She expressed the Planning Board’s concerns about the project in a Feb. 28 letter to Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and the Town Council. In the letter, Snow said board members agreed the project did not reflect the town’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan, a document that is meant to guide growth.

“I found it very distressing that Council brought up legitimate concerns that Staff could have answered, but chose, instead, to act last night before answers were received, instead of deferring action,” Snow wrote in her letter. “If the Planning Board’s attention to the Comprehensive Plan and fact-based information is the wrong approach, I would appreciate knowing that so that we can act with that knowledge.”

Residents who argue about “fact-based information” to oppose developments while saying they don’t oppose growth usually can’t explain what responsible growth is, Pease said.

“They can’t articulate how we pay for the increased costs of running the town, they don’t want our town services cut, nor do they not want their taxes raised, but consistently they are against growth in any form,” he said.

This is the second time in as many months that Snow’s role on the Planning Board has been publicly questioned.

In a Dec. 29 letter to the Town Council, Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich, a former Town Council member, asked Snow to resign as chairwoman. Rich’s letter also questioned Snow’s involvement in the pending Charterwood lawsuit, as well as Snow’s comments at a December county commissioners meeting.

Kleinschmidt said at the time that Snow was within her rights as a citizen to address the commissioners. Her participation in the Charterwood lawsuit is “irrelevant,” he said.

However, Kleinschmidt said he also sees how some might disagree with his opinion.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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