Entry by Bill Cochrane
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The Southern Pines Appearance Commission held their March meeting in the Boyd Room of the Utilities Building on Broad Street beginning at 4:00
P.M. Once a quorum arrived, the Commission heard various reports from its members and staff.
The meeting was businesslike, smooth, and relatively brief. A noteworthy discussion was the awarding of the Forestry Service' Tree City Award for the 33rd year this coming Arbor Day Celebration. The Celebration will occur at 1:30
P.M. this coming Friday, March 15, at the Campbell House, 482 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines..
The Southern Pines Appearance Commission held their January meeting in the Boyd Room at 180 SW Broad Street beginning at 4:00
P.M. Chairman Geoffrey Cutler did a good job of running the meeting. Congratulations to Jeannie Carpentier for her election to Commission Vice-Chair and to Chair of the new "Sprucing Up Southern Pines" Committee.
A number of matters were discussed including the Commission's review and approval of their proposed 2013 fiscal year budget of $32,600.Bill Cochrane
The Southern Pines Appearance Commission held their November meeting in the Boyd Room, 180 SW Broad St., beginning at 4:00 pm. Several members were late, and a topic of discussions was attendance, participation, and dependability of members. Once the Commission got down to business, the Chairman ran a good meeting. All business was handled professionally. The Chair, Geoffrey Cutler, runs very good meetings and is a credit to the body. The entire attitude, approach, and effectiveness of the Commission appears to be changing for the better.
The Southern Pines Appearance Commission held their October meeting in the Boyd Room, 180 SW Broad Street, beginning at 4:00
P.M. The Commission handled a number of routine topics and reports. The most interesting portion of the meeting was the report and discussions of how the Appearance Commission should become more involved in the development and editing of the new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) with the Town's Consultant.
Discussions involving potential transformation of the Appearance Commission from an advisory board
to a governance board
were very troubling. These mirror the efforts and intentions of the Historic District Commission to move from an advisory board to a governance board with expanded authority. The Appearance Commission discussed whether their group should become a required approval step in any architectural or development application in Southern Pines. They discussed whether the Appearance Commission should impose new landscaping and appearance regulations in the new UDO which might be enforced by the Appearance Commission. The Commission discussed how they might exert more influence and power over the Town Council.
Fortunately, Commissioner Oscar Bell spoke up and shut down these discussions. Thank goodness for Mr. Bell! While this group had made comments that the intent of the new UDO and their intent in their discussions are to simplify
the process and reduce problems and roadblocks for applicants, encouraging growth and prosperity, their considerations of imposing additional requirements and steps into the application approvall process was not consistent with their claims.
If these groups are allowed to become "administrative" or governance authorities, rather than volunteer advisory boards, think what this would mean. An applicant would have to first get the go-ahead by the Town Staff, then have a hearing and secure approval by the Historic District Commission, then endure a hearing and gain approval of the Appearance Commission, then abide a hearing and get approval from the Planning Board (and possibly Zoning Board), and then finally go before hearings and approval by the Town Council. And this would be simpler, HOW?
And let's remember, folks, these are UNELECTED
boards! If the Town Council were to transform these boards into governmental authorites, then these boards must become ELECTED
boards, with the members fully accountable to the electorate. Putting this much authority and control in the hands of unelected
, unaccountable people is completely UNACCEPTABLE!Bill Cochrane
The Southern Pines Appearance Commission held its June meeting in the Boyd Room on Broad Street beginning at 4:00 PM on June, 12, 2012. A quorum was not present; however, there were no official votes scheduled on the agenda. Those present gave reports of their activities and discussed concerns and issues pertinent to the Commission.
The Commission members conducted themselves extremely well. Gone was all evidence of discordance and pressure for new rules and regulations to impose on residents and merchants. This commission may be back to smooth functioning and proper focus on the right priorities.
Disturbing was a report that thieves are stealing plantings and even an eight-foot tall Japanese red maple tree from town planters and property. This is despicable, and we can only hope the thief or thieves will be apprehended soon.
Work and discussions between this Commission and the NC Department of Transportation generated a considerable amount of discussion. It was reported that the level of cooperation and agreement between DOT and the Town is very encouraging.
The Southern Pines Appearance Commission held their April meeting on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, at the Boyd Room on NW Broad Street. It was a rather mundane meeting until the subject of Council appointments came up again. Apparently, with at least a couple of members, the wounds are still open.
Yet, this commission has not taken any real action to vet outstanding applicants. Nor has this commission taken any real action to fill its vacancies. Nor has this commission taken any action to elect officers, compelling, instead, Town staff to continue acting as chair and secretary because no commission members will step up to those positions. If the continuing "indignation" of the minority of commission members were genuine, the commission would get off its duff and act like adults. If the "dedication" of this commission as a body were genuine, this commission would act vigorously to heal its own wounds, fill out its numbers, and elect officers straightaway. It would not persist in pretending to "find itself", but would know itself. If this commission truly wishes to be afforded the privilege of "first recommendation" of its new members, it would get "off its thumbs" and interview the good people of the town who have applied to serve -- and if the "righteous" members do not feel that those who have applied are deserving of appointment, they should actively recruit new members who are deemed "worthy". Otherwise the continuing protestations ring most hollow. The Town Council is not its "foe" but is acting in the best interests of the commision and of the Town. Get on with it!
Appearance Commission Members:
Vince Zucchino (ETJ)
Jessica Harrelson (ETJ)
Ed Garrison (ETJ)
Charlie Mae Laird
Goodbye, to bitter rancor!
More resignations from the Southern Pines Appearance Commission as reported
in The Pilot
this week. The video of the last Southern Pines Appearance Commission was posted here
along with a report on what happened and the context.These resignations and the clean-up of the Southern Pines Appearance Commission are reason for celebration in this town. The Appearance Commission was stacked with arrogant crony incumbents who had stayed too long, had completely lost touch with reality, and believed themselves to be above question -- and above the elected Council. They needed to go!The town will be much better off without this "good ole boy", "better than thou", elite clique in place. Hooray for our elected officials! And adieu to the elite, pompous, self-aggrandizing characters who stomped out. Welcome to the new Commission members who will surely bring a breath of fresh air and rationality to the Commission!And kudos to the Mayor and Council! David McNeill has proven his courage and valiance in this ugly matter.Bill Cochrane
The Southern Pines Appearance Commission held a rather "fiery" meeting in the Boyd Room at 180 Broad St. SW on February 14, 2012. The meeting began about 4:10 P.M. after all of the Appearance Commission members who were coming had arrived as well as the Town Council, Mayor, Town Manager, and other town staff.Most of this meeting was consumed by controversy and disagreement among the existing Appearance Commission members and the Town Council. You can listen to the exchange in the video of the entire meeting posted below. Before I comment, let's review a bit of history to put this in context for those who have not followed the issue.The issue has been "bubbling" since at least last September, 2011, based on this letter dated September 19, 2011.
As stated in the letter, (paraphrasing) although qualified Southern Pines residents had duly applied to serve on the Appearance Commission, the Appearance Commission had never reviewed those applications because the members whose terms were about to expire wished to serve for another term.You see, it seems the Appearance Commission has been allowed to operate on its own for a very long time by past Town Councils. There were never any term limits -- as on all the other Southern Pines boards and commissions -- so the members of the Appearance Commission simply stayed on as long as they wished. If one of them resigned or moved away, the Appearance Commission members themselves selected the replacement candidate. So they expected to maintain this closed environment again this time around.However, the Town Council was again presented the decision in January, 2012, whether to reappoint the existing members
as proposed by the Appearance Commission or to appoint new members in order to refresh and expand community representation on the Commission by appointing residents who had applied to serve on this body.The Town Council wisely decided to appoint new members to replace those whose terms were expiring. And the Town Council wisely decided to implement term limits for the Appearance Commission congruent with the term limits which apply to all other Southern Pines governance bodies. A number of the old members of the Appearance Commission "went ballistic". You will hear the outgoing Chairman read a letter that was sent by the Appearance Commission to the Mayor and Town Council. You will hear a number of statements and bitter accusations made by certain members of the Appearance Commission during the meeting.
The facts do not bear up the protestations of these members.Now for my observation and commentary: This is a "textbook" example of what happens when incumbents are allowed to stay in position for far too long and to operate without adequate oversight of elected officials. They become arrogant and they develop a strong sense that they are "entitled" to their office. They begin to revel in their power and to desire more power and authority. You can clearly hear this attitude expressed in this video. It is ugly. This Appearance Commission was obviously in need of reform. It needs transparency and exposure
to the broader public in both participation and input.You will hear the long term members express how only they know best for the town and only they know who is best to sit on the Appearance Commission.
This is simply not true. You will hear how our elected officials should leave them alone and allow them to function "independently". You will hear how much they resent interference by our elected officials. When you hear a board or commission strive to be insulated from accountability to the elected officials and from the public, you know there is trouble. When you hear members of a governing body expressing that only they are expert enough, only they know best, only they are qualified to rule over us, you know there is trouble.Thanks be to our Mayor and Town Council for bringing overdue and much needed reforms to the Southern Pines Appearance Commission. We made a wise choice at the ballot box this last November, for sure!Bill Cochrane