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County Council, February 4

Council seeks to restrain its members
Mayor’s guidance sought on development of 995 Morrison Drive
Warwick Jones

There was little on the agendas of the Committee meetings last night. But members spent a lot of time discussing them, and we suspect to the irritation of Council member Rawl who was in the chair most of the evening.

The meeting of the Administration Policy/Rules Committee was the first of the evening. There only item on the agenda was a discussion of a proposal to add “contractors and vendors” to the appropriate section of Rule 8.1. This rule obliges Council members to first consult the Administrator about making requests of staff and employees. If the proposal were adopted, Council members would need to refer to the Administrator before making requests of “contractors and vendors” as well.

Committee member Pryor was not happy with the inclusion and asked why? Chairman Rawl explained that it was good management practice, and the habit of Council members making requests and demands was also adding to costs. The Administrator was responsible for the management of staff and should retain all control.

Committee member Pryor was still not happy and thought that Council members should have some the freedom to make requests of staff, and contractors for that matter. But as Chairman Summey said, Council members can ask questions but they cannot give directions.

We think that the amendment to the rule makes a lot of sense and wonder why it took so long for the rule to be amended. Have some Council member been treading heavily on the toes of the Administrator or have costs risen sharply in some areas because of unauthorized directions?

We thought that most Council members were happy with the proposal and expect it will pass when brought before the full Council.

The request before the Economic Development Committee was approval for staff to continue working on a Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the County owned property at 995 Morrison Drive. The 8 acre site is prime real estate in the Lower Peninsula area. However, it is the City of Charleston and subject to the City’s zoning ordinances. Staff in its presentation indicated the zoning changes made recently by the City and which could influence development. It wanted the authority of Council to proceed with shaping the PUD and to continue discussions with the City as to what would be acceptable. Staff also requested that the County’s nearby Romney Street property be included in the PUD.

Council member Schweers was not happy about the PUD. Why was the Council acting as a developer? If a PUD is formed and approved, development is proscribed and may not be to the liking to a potential purchaser. Wouldn’t it be better to let a developer shape a PUD?

Chairman Rawl suggested that the County was laying the groundwork for a development and simplifying the process for a potential developer. It was also locking in the zoning. These things should make the property more valuable.

And then the question was asked as to what did the City want from the property? Its location and size made it an important part of the redevelopment of the Upper Peninsula. And so it was decided that Council members Pryor and Sass, Chairman Summey and members of staff should seek a meeting with the new Mayor the City of Charleston to discuss the development. So everything was placed on hold until this meeting.

We thought the original proposal before the Committee incliuded meetings with the City. Maybe a meeting with the Mayor was not proposed specifically but it is hardly likely that City staff would move on such an important item without consultation.

The meeting with the Mayor was approved by all Council members except Council member Rawl. He probably did not oppose the meeting but thought the original proposal before the Committee was superior.

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