Officials debate future of planning department

Feb. 13, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

Representatives from Lee County and the City of Sanford agreed to draft a list of tasks and functions currently being performed — and those that will need to be performed in anticipation of the natural gas industry — by the joint planning department Tuesday night.

Council members Samuel Gaskins, Poly Cohen and Rebecca Wyhof met with Commissioners Kirk Smith, Jim Womack and Amy Dalrymple Tuesday night to discuss interlocal agreements — in particular the planning and community development department — at the West End Conference Room at the Sanford Municipal Building, located at 225 Weatherspoon St., Sanford.

The subcommittee agreed to tentatively meet at 11 a.m. Feb. 20 at the West End Conference Room to address the remaining interlocal agreements.

There are many things the planning department should be anticipating and ramping up in light of the natural gas industry moving into the county in the next year to three years, Womack said.

If the current planning department is not involved in the regulation creation process, Lee County will be forced to play catch up, he said.

With the possibility of many industries moving into the area, Wyhof said, she was concerned with trying to anticipate what the N.C. General Assembly will put in place.

Communication between the planning department and the county was also addressed during the subcommittee meeting, with Womack suggesting an office for Sanford-Lee County Planning Director Bob Bridwell be placed in the Summit building, where several county administrative offices are located.

"Maybe move his office to our office building on Summit," Womack said. "Maybe as an interim measure. We are having an issue with communication, we can learn form that and figure out what we need to steam line. He knows your contacts and has a rhythm with your people and we need that."

City Manager Hal Hegwer said he would want to discuss the measure with Bridwell, but it could lead to better communication between the county and the city. Bridwell is currently housed in the Sanford Municipal Center.

Gaskins said there shouldn't be a reason why reports that are presented to the city are not being sent to the county within the same week.

"We need to take action on the reporting," he said. "There is no reason when we get reports, the same reports don't go to you."

Womack, who originally suggested the county form a separate planning department to specifically address the county's needs, said he didn't care if there was one planning department or two departments as long as the work is done at reasonable efficiency for the taxpayers.