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Planning commission structure may change
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The Dawson County Board of Commissioners is considering a change to the structure by which planning commissioners are appointed and the terms they serve.


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.


District 2 Commissioner James Swafford presented the proposal during last week’s work session and asked the board to consider a change, which if approved, would require planning commissioner Vernon Smith to resign his seat at the end of his term on Dec. 31.


Smith, who was appointed by District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix, owns a business in District 4, but lives in District 3.


Smith said he understands that “trying to find someone within the district to serve is the ultimate goal.”


Swafford said the suggested changes do not reflect on the performance of any planning commissioner or alternate currently appointed.


The reason behind the changes is to update “the 1999 last revision of the ordinance,” which also asks for an appointment from the Mayor of Dawsonville. 


The city of Dawsonville now oversees the city’s planning issues, where as in 1999, it was the county’s responsibility.


Additionally, Swafford suggested an option for the full board of commissioners to approve appointments to the planning commission, which was met with opposition from District 3 Commissioner Mike Connor.


District 1 Commissioner Gary Pichon said he believes the full board should approve any appointments before they sit on a county board.


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


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


If the board approves the proposed change, two public hearings would be required before the board can officially vote to change the ordinance.


The board of commissioners is expected to continue discussions on the proposal during Thursday night’s regular called meeting in the G.L. Pete Gilleland Council Chambers at city hall. The meeting begins at 6 p.m.


District 3 Planning Commissioner Lionel Graves and alternate Arlene McClure are expected to be reappointed Thursday. Both of their terms expired on Dec. 31, 2008.