- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
I have very closely followed the growth and zoning issues in Charles County for many years. I believe the policy of the planning commission and past boards of commissioners have focused on the “right” to develop for too long and not enough focus has been on the right development for Charles County.
I believe the economy, poor planning and no vision has brought us to where we are today overcrowded schools, a glut of homes on the market, and approximately 24,000 more homes already approved to be built in the queue. What we don’t have is an equally large or larger commercial base.
We have a wonderful opportunity to lay the groundwork to change that the 2012 comprehensive plan update. We have three open-minded, willing to roll-up-their sleeves, planning commission members who take their responsibilities to the citizens of this county seriously, by being open to availing themselves of the factual information available to produce a plan that will provide a framework for a viable, sustainable future.
Unfortunately, these three planning commission members are outnumbered by a majority of four, who refuse to broaden their knowledge and whose actions give the perception of arrogance and intolerance to anyone who wishes to change how things have been done in the past. I have witnessed this majority refuse the advice of the county attorney and staff on many issues, demonstrate what I see as irresponsible judgment, and disregard the consequences or predicament they place this county in.
I attended the Feb. 27 planning commission meeting and was appalled by the behavior of the majority of the planning commission. During the public forum portion of the meeting, which was allotted approximately 10 minutes on the agenda, a large number of citizens signed up to speak. The majority of those individuals were from one organization. The rules, as I know them, are that one individual representing a group could speak for five minutes, as opposed to the normal three minutes to address the commission. One organization one speaker for the group.
However, numerous individuals from the group wished to speak. Courtney Edmonds, as chairman of the commission, has the responsibility of keeping the meeting on track and focused on the business listed on the agenda. The first speaker took up the entire 10 minutes scheduled for the public forum slot.
Mr. Edmonds then stated the commission would take care of the other items on the agenda, and reinstitute the public forum so that everyone who signed up to speak could have the opportunity to do so. Considering only 10 minutes had been allotted for the public forum, this should have been considered as a generous act. Instead, what happened was appalling.
Two members of the planning commission displayed behavior that was an embarrassment to this county. The two members were Lou Grasso and Joe Richard. They began to verbally attack the commission chairman and encouraged those in the audience to become abusive, as well.
These two members received the backing of two other commission members, Joan Jones and Bob Mitchell, to continue in their rants and have the meeting run afoul of the agenda. Mr. Edmonds continually tried to return the meeting to order, however, Mr. Grasso and Mr. Richard resisted these attempts and continued to waste everyone’s time. At one point, for clarification, Mr. Edmonds started to cite the rules of policy and procedure. He was interrupted by Mr. Joe Richard. Mr. Richard’s response was probably one of the most honest, fact-based statements I have ever heard him make. Mr. Richard stated that the rules of policy and procedure don’t apply here. He hit the nail on the head. This seems to be the belief among this majority of four. They do not follow the rules, the advice of counsel or staff, disregard the majority of citizens, and seem to believe they only need to serve one segment of our community beyond all science or fact.
I would like to commend Mr. Edmonds on how he handled this disgusting situation. He maintained his composure and professionalism at all times. I would also like to thank Commissioner Ken Robinson, who despite the controversy created by various segments of our community, stood by Mr. Edmonds in a very public way. Courage is taking a stand for what is right, regardless of whether you stand alone.
There will be some who will give you a different view or spin of the meeting based on their own personal agendas. I ask this board of commissioners not to believe me, and not to believe those with a different view. I ask you to watch the meeting for yourselves. I ask you to look at the facts behind all sides of the story. I ask you to consider the actions of the past year, as well. Which members of the commission have been willing to arm themselves with all the facts to make the best decisions possible and which members have been arrogant enough to believe they have all the answers.
I believe, in the end, you will be willing to consider my next request. I believe Mr. Grasso and Mr. Richard have proven themselves to be obstinate, close-minded and unprofessional. I implore you to reconsider the appointment of these two individuals on the planning commission. We need members who will give consideration, thought and due diligence to the right development for this county and not just advocate the right to develop without a sustainable plan. Again, we have an opportunity ahead to lay the foundation for viable future. We must have planning commission members who are up to this important task.
Pauleen Brewer, Hughesville