Rules changes prompt opposition from Huntersville board

HUNTERSVILLE – Board of adjustment members expressed strong opposition to what town commissioners were doing and how they were doing it, but the town board unanimously approved – with two commissioners absent – the adoption of rules governing board of adjustment procedures.

At the town board’s Nov. 15 session, the item emerged as the prime point of controversy, with board of adjustment Chairman Ed Cecil and alternate committee members John Passarelli and Kevin Bray speaking against the action along with incoming commissioner Rob Kidwell, who will begin his town board term next month.

The main concern was the town’s actions would – or could be perceived to – eliminate the independence of the board of adjustment, a town board-appointed citizen committee that conducts quasi-judicial proceedings on issues and variance requests related to zoning ordinance enforcement and planning staff decisions.

Cecil, who said rules action could also be a “pretext in an attempt” to make more substantial changes, added, “That is why I am wearing a black suit in fear of the death and burial of the board of adjustment.”

Cecil and Kidwell also criticized positioning of the rules of procedure item on the “consent agenda,” which would allow a decision without open discussion. They, along with Passarelli – who is a lawyer – also questioned the legality of the action.

After public comments, the board moved the item from consent to the regular agenda. And in discussion prior to the vote Town Attorney Emily Sloop said the proposed action was aligned with town board goals to update and adopt rules governing all committees and advisory boards.

And when Commissioner Nick Walsh asked if, in Sloop’s legal opinion, the town had the right to approve the rules, she was direct, referencing the state statute on rules of procedure.

“Yes,” she said, “pursuant to 160D-308 and as confirmed by the subject matter experts at UNC School of Government.”

The board voted 4-0 – with commissioners Brian Hines and Lance Munger absent – to adopt the rules.

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