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At-large representation sought

The Farmville Planning Commission is seeking to add at-large members to its ranks.

The request came from Commission Chairman Sherry Honeycutt during the Farmville Town Council’s monthly work session Wednesday.

After reviewing a variety of cases the commission had heard last year, Honeycutt, who lives in Ward A, said, “We also wanted to know if there was a way that, although you all (agreed) to the change with the makeup of our commission, if there was a way that we could keep our commission intact and maybe have those commissioners that are due to leave soon … remain as maybe at-large members in addition to having the new members so that all of the wards are represented.”

In September, the town council agreed to change the makeup of the commission, increasing ward representation and staggering members’ terms. The unanimous action followed a public hearing on the ordinance change, which drew no speakers. Council, too, offered no comment while considering the matter last fall.

Changes included removing Town Manager Gerald Spates and At-Large Councilman Dan Dwyer from the commission.

Currently, the commission’s members only represent Wards A and B.

The earlier hearing focused on representation from each of the five wards and having no fewer than five and no more than 15 members. The ordinance change also includes the possibility of appointed ex-officio (non-voting) members to the commission.

Sherry Honeycutt

Sherry Honeycutt

Honeycutt’s request, which drew no response from council Wednesday, said having the planners who are set to expire fill the proposed at-large seats would bring continuity.

“That was a big request that came from the planning commission,” she said during the work session.

In the commission’s annual report, the request is listed as, “Request town council keep current commissioners intact for continuity and request that town council allow for ‘at-large’ membership to the planning commission.”

During her report from the commission to the council, Honeycutt requested funds to review and update the town’s Comprehensive Plan.

“We are at the point where we need to update the Comprehensive Plan for the town,” Honeycutt said. “And it is so involved that upon listening to Mr. (Michael) Chandler (director of education for the Land Use Education Program at Virginia Tech), he recommended that we outsource this and not involve the town’s folks … His estimated cost is $15-20,000.”

Several weeks ago, Chandler facilitated a “wonderful training session” for the commission, Honeycutt said.

According to Town Planner Cindy Morris, the Comprehensive Plan is supposed to be updated every five years. “There is a draft update of one right after the 2010 Census … so it is long overdue,” Morris said.

Honeycutt also requested funds for continued education and travel and meals “to conduct site visits to other jurisdictions similar in nature to Farmville to gain insight and ideas from other localities as it relates to planning.”

Both requests are estimated to cost $500 each.

“We wanted to look at different communities and see how they look at their plans with colleges, universities, as well as the town,” Honeycutt said regarding the travel, adding it was needed in preparation of the plan revision.

“We would like more training,” Honeycutt said. “And because of that, we would request $500 for additional training, hopefully with him because he has so much insight to offer us,” she said regarding Chandler.

Ward B Councilwoman Sally Thompson expressed interest in council members attending the training opportunities with planners.

In August, council agreed to a proposal to amend the term dates for the current members, staggering them to expire this year and in 2018. The current members of the commission would fulfill their terms, said Ward E Councilman J.J. “Jamie” Davis, who offered the recommendations.

According to Davis, commissioners Abby O’Connor and Dr. Chuck Ross’ terms would expire this year, while Honeycutt and commissioners L.D. Phaup and Dr. John Miller’s terms would expire in 2018.

If no qualified representative can be found or is willing to serve from a ward, council could appoint someone from another ward, Davis explained.

In August, council members adopted policies for the training of commission members and determined that applications to the commission be reviewed by the council’s personnel committee.

Months ago, council unanimously amended town code to mirror state code, stipulating one council member and administrative official “may” serve instead of “shall” serve on the commission.