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Planning board structure headed to hearing
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The Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted last Thursday to seek the public’s input on changing the structure in which planning commissioners are appointed and serve.


In a presentation earlier this month, District 2 Commissioner James Swafford asked the board to consider revising a 1999 ordinance that outlined how the planning board operates.


The proposed changes would align planning commissioners’ terms with their respective district commissioner, allow the planning commission to nominate and choose a chair and vice chair and require planning commissioners to live in the same district as the commissioner who appoints them.


The 1999 ordinance also allows the county’s district commissioners to appoint a planning board member without the approval of the full board of commissioners, which Swafford said he would like to see changed.


District 3 Commissioner Mike Connor said he saw little in Swafford’s presentation related to updating the 1999 ordinance.


“I don’t want veto power over your selection and I don’t want you to have veto power over mine,” Connor said, objecting to the idea.


Swafford said the suggested changes do not reflect on the performance of any planning commissioner or alternate currently appointed, although if approved, at least one board member would be forced to resign his seat at the end of his term on Dec. 31.


Appointed by District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix, Vernon Smith has a business in the district, but lives in district 3.


Also at issue, Swafford said, is a failure by the board to reappoint planning commissioners on a timely basis.


Prior to the board of commissioner discussions last Thursday, Connor reappointed Lionel Graves to serve as the district 3 planning commissioner and Arlene McClure as the alternate. Both of their terms had expired on Dec. 31, 2008.


Swafford said making appointments on time would help avoid litigation, which could develop if planning commissioners make zoning recommendations without being properly reappointed.


“I think James has a justifiable point there,” said Commission Chairman Mike Berg. “That could come back to us.”


According to Swafford’s proposal, planning commissioners would be up for reappointment every two years and would serve terms that coincide with their district commissioner.


Current Planning Commission Chair Dick Bergen said the planning commission is in agreement with Swafford’s proposal.


The board of commissioners voted 3-1, with Connor voting against, to move forward and take Swafford’s proposal to the public for the two required hearings.


The dates for the hearings have not been announced.


E-mail Michele Hester at