Wendell Mayor Tim Hinnant’s recent email to town staff and commissioners regarding the appropriateness of a question from members of the town’s economic development advisory committee strikes us as misguided and, honestly, we’re not sure why he wouldn’t welcome feedback from that panel regarding the town’s land use plan.
The email, written in response to a memo from planning director David Bergmark, said the economic development group’s mission didn’t include matters involving the land use plan, formally called the Unified Development Ordinance.
But it seems to us the two issues – economic development and land use – go hand in hand.
It’s possible, we suppose, that Hinnantt didn’t think through what he was writing. His email was sent during a work day when he was presumably on state time. Hinnant has consistently refused to discuss town business with the media during the work day, citing his obligations to the state, although he apparently does conduct town business during that time. So it is plausible, that, in the midst of performing his state duties he fired off the note with the first thoughts that came to his mind, rather than giving considered thought to what he wrote.
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Nevertheless, Hinnant’s premise is just a bit off. The town’s UDO was written and adopted by one board right before the end of its term, then rewritten entirely by the next board which had significant philosophical differences with its predecessors. It is the guiding force behind development in Wendell. It determines what kind of development takes place in what part of town. It includes the rules for development of property – both residential and commercial – and it gives developers of all stripes a clearer picture of what they can and cannot do in Wendell.
In layman’s terms, the document helps organize the town’s future development. In doing so, it determines what part of town is best suited for industrial uses, which parts of town are best suited for commercial uses and which parts would be bette set aside for residential uses. It is a document rich in detail.
That organization is key to economic development, because businesses generally do not want to locate in an area where they are not welcome, or where their neighbor’s activities could cause some kind of problem for thei orderly operation of their business.
In his email, Hinnant pointed out that commissioners do not work for the economic development advisory committee. In a sense that’s true. The committee advises commissioners. But it would seem counterproductive to us not to listen to a group who is tasked with improving economic development when they ask for information that would help them do their job.