For an item also on the Valdosta agenda tonight, lack of transparency and concern for trees perplexed a prominent local citizen at the Planning Commission, as you can see in the LAKE video of the 25 January 2016 GLPC Regular Session. Glenn Gregory said:
I think y’all might have a site plan, but the public does not have a site plan.
Commissioner Celine Godwin recommended Gregory take his transparency recommendation to the Valdosta City Council. We shall see, at 5:30 PM tonight. Gretchen will be there with the LAKE video camera.
Jason Stewart, VDT, 29 January 2016, Gregory opposes cemetery proposal,
Valdosta resident Glenn Gregory said the city needs to change its approach to open records requests to better suit the needs of residents.
Gregory also called the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission’s lack of a site plan for a conditional use permit “disconcerting” and “unacceptable.”
The GLPC voted 5-3 last week to recommend with conditions a conditional use request for 77.87 split-zoned acres into a cemetery. The acres are divided into residential-professional, single-family residential and environmental-resource zonings.
Gregory asked where is the site plan. He was told he could file an open records request. He said that was unacceptable. As the VDT story notes, he did file one, but since the Georgia open records law gives the city three days to respond, he didn’t get it before the GLPC meeting.
The VDT story discusses conditions and notes the applicant said he had not discussed it with neighbors. That didn’t seem to concern the Planning Commission, but this did:
Gregory felt the commission should add conditions so no clearing could be done in the wetland area, he said.
Any development done on the site should maintain the integrity of the “screen of the natural wooded area,” Gregory said.
The commission voted to approve the permit with suggested conditions to create a buffer between the proposed cemetery and the wetlands, but the vote failed.
Gladwell, who opposed the vote with the suggested conditions, said she could not impose restrictions without knowing how they would affect development.
The commission voted to recommend the conditional-use permit with the original conditions.
Why is the Planning Commission not willing to act without knowing effects on a proposed development (the cemetery), yet is willing to act without knowing what neighboring landowners think?
The transparency issue is both a city and a county problem. Indeed, the City Clerk handles Valdosta open records requests. But it’s Lowndes County that’s in charge of the website on which GLPC agendas and minutes are posted. So for the obvious solution of posting the board packets on the web before GLPC meetings, both the city and the county need to cooperate.
To their credit, several Planning Commissioners seemed surprised and displeased to discover that the public did not have access to the site plan and other information before the GLPC meeting. Glenn Gregory recommended they email it to citizens who request. The Suwannee County, Florida, Board of County Commissioners does that, for example. It seems that mighty Valdosta, with population greater than all of Suwannee County, could also do that.
Here’s the video:
Lack of site plan disconcerting and unacceptable –Glenn Gregory about cemetery rezoning
Regular Session, Greater Lowndes Planning Commission (GLPC),
Video by John S. Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 25 January 2016.