Spring Hope appoints new planning board

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Spring Hope commissioners appointed a new planning board Monday, mixing old and new faces in an effort to stimulate more citizen involvement.

Following criteria approved last month, commissioners voted in three secret ballots to name nine planning board members and two alternates

Two of the nine appointments are ex officio, Mayor Buddy Gwaltney and revitalization Chairman Roger Warren, and two — Garfield Mills and Brian Brantley —are residents of the town’s one-mile extraterritorial jurisdiction whose appointments must be approved by the Nash County Board of Commissioners.

The remaining five members are town Commissioners Drew Griffin and Brenda Lucas, Dr. Howard Weeks, Michelle Boesen and David Jones. Sandra Blanchard and Chris Tingler were selected as alternates.

Except the ex officio members, all the members served three-year terms, which normally are staggered but were not designated as such Monday. All but Boesen and Jones were on the previous planning board. The two alternates are also new to the planning board.

Besides seven former planning board members, eight residents submitted applications to serve, a fact that delighted commissioners. When discussion turned to the downtown development board, commissioners only reluctantly selected a single nomination submitted to them and stressed the need to publicize future openings to all town committees.

Town Manager Jae Kim submitted the name of Mark Cone to serve on the newly formed economic committee. Commissioners Brenda Lucas and Drew Griffin said they had nothing against Cone but wanted to see more names.

Kim said Cone’s nomination was made by the committee in following their approved bylaws to have a member who owns a business in town. Cone was recommended after another business owner declined to serve. To open it up to anyone, he said, would require a bylaws change.

Rather than wait to change the bylaws, the town board voted to appoint Cone to the board, but members said they wanted more flexibility in the future.

“Why come before us,” Commissioner Ricky Tucker asked, “if it seems like we’re just going to rubber stamp what y’all do?”

“I feel like we need to change it,” Lucas said.

“The bylaws were approved, but they can always be amended,” Kim acknowledged.

Asked if the town should draft some formal criteria to serve on the downtown advisory board, Griffin said, “I think you need to put some qualifications in place even if you do change the bylaws.”

Gwaltney said vacancies on “all committees in the future” should be widely publicized to encourage more participation.

“The response to the planning board, that was great,” Commissioner Brent Cone said, “that they want to be involved. The more involvement, the better.”

“We’ll open it up for the next time,” Kim said.

In other business, the board heard department reports and was informed by outgoing Spring Hope Area Chamber of Commerce President Jan Mills that the chamber was only a few days away from settling on a location for the new N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles-contracted license plate agency approved for Spring Hope.

Mills also thanked the board for its support of the chamber during the past year and encouraged all members to participate in the upcoming Christmas in Spring Hope.

“I’m delighted there is a development board to work with the Chamber of Commerce and the town board,” she said. “I’m proud of the things we’ve done.”