The committee, tasked with arbitrating any disputes or requests for exemption related to the zoning ordinance, has existed on paper ever since the ordinance went into effect last May. Commissioners put themselves in as place-holding committee members when they passed the zoning rules, but this month they began the process of appointing actual members of the Cullowhee community instead.
“When we adopted that (zoning ordinance), we didn’t have a planning director,” said County Manager Chuck Wooten at the commissioners’’ Feb. 16 work session, when they first began discussing planning committee appointments. Because the zoning rules required a committee to go into effect, commissioners had opted to put their board in as a substitute until they could hire a planning director and get all their ducks in a row to start making appointments.
So far, four members of the seven-member committee have been appointed. Three of the four sat on the Cullowhee Advisory Board that helped develop the zoning ordinance in the first place, a three-year process.
That doesn’t mean that they’re all of the opinion that the ordinance is perfect, however.
“Just like with any ordinance, it’s going to take some time to get it figured out,” said Scott Baker, one of the newly appointed members. Baker was chairman of the Cullowhee Advisory Board and currently serves as chairman of the Jackson County Planning Board. “We know there will have to be changes. There will be situations that come up.”
Commissioners had said the same thing last May when they passed the zoning rules, vowing to check in on the ordinance at least yearly to make sure it was working as intended.
The committee’s role will be to listen to any issues with the ordinance’s restrictions that may arise — a developer who wants an exemption to some portion of the zoning rules, for example, or a homeowner requesting relief from some unintended consequence of the rules — and deliver recommendations to the county planning board, who will in turn pass on a recommendation to commissioners.
“It’s really a working ordinance as we go on to see how it’s going to go,” Baker said.
All committee members must live, work or own property in Cullowhee, meaning community decisions will be made by people who have a vested interest in the community. In addition to Baker, the committee will include Myrtle Schrader, Jack Debnam and Rick Bennett. Of the three remaining appointments, Commissioner Boyce Dietz will be responsible for one and remaining two will be at-large appointments agreed upon by the full board.
No meeting schedule has yet been set. The committee will meet monthly with members serving three-year staggered terms.