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Chatham County Commissioners turn down “anti-growth” advocate

By Caroline Siverson
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - At the Board of Commissioners meeting on August 15, in their usual cluster stance, new members Brian Bock, Pamela Stewart, and Walter Petty rejected Commissioner Mike Cross’ nomination of Allison Weakley to the Chatham County Planning Board in a 3-2 vote.

This was a stunning and scandalous action. Allison Weakley is a competent, intelligent, creative, and dedicated citizen who has made many invaluable contributions to Chatham County, for which she has been rightly honored. She is a highly-trained scientist who served without pay on the Environmental Review Board, which the Bock/Petty/Stewart triumvirate is also striving to eliminate from the planning process.

The three attempted to justify their votes on the grounds that Weakley is “anti-growth.” Commissioner Petty offered her work on the Comprehensive Conservation Plan as proof of her anti-growth activities. The CCP is not a regulatory document, but rather an impressive compilation of data about natural resources, which could be used as a valuable tool when planning for growth. Once again, this BoC majority has shown that they are not interested in thorough reviews when making important decisions that affect the future of Chatham County. Although Weakley has never had any regulatory power, and has only served in a volunteer advisory capacity, Commissioner Bock unreasonably stated that she is responsible for regulations that he campaigned against.

It is well documented that business development and growth of all kinds are more vibrant where environmental protection is vigorous. To the extent that she is a highly-competent scientist with strong concerns about environmental protection, Allison Weakley might have offered valuable insight and perspectives to the Planning Board. Yet she would only have been in a minority voting position, hardly an obstacle to any new development that Bock/Petty/Stewart would like to promote.

Traditionally, commissioners have honored the wishes of their fellow board members by approving their choices of appointments to advisory boards and committees. But Bock, Stewart, and Petty ignored tradition and due respect for their minority colleagues. None of the three had actually interviewed Weakley before spurning her nomination; indeed, Commissioner Cross offered to postpone the vote to allow time to hear from Ms. Weakley herself, but the majority rebuffed that idea. Instead, they displayed a closed-minded, inflexible approach to governing, and voted to reject a highly-qualified candidate on the basis of hearsay and false assumptions.

Chatham citizens who believe in planned growth, environmental protections, and an innovative future for our county can only lament the continued misguided and unfortunate actions of these three new commissioners.

Caroline Siverson is a member of the liberal Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities group.

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