Hallman: Brock confrontational

Harry Hallman

Comprehensive plan changes at issue

Mount Pleasant — Planning Commission Chairman Steve Brock should consider resigning because of his disrespectful and confrontational attitude toward Town Council, Mayor Harry Hallman said this week in a letter to Brock.

"This disrespect reached a new level with your recent request for an opinion from the Attorney General, bypassing our Town Attorney and Council, and with your recent letter to the Moultrie News," Hallman wrote in the letter dated Tuesday.

Brock received an Oct. 22 opinion from the state attorney general which in essence states that for Council to change the town's comprehensive plan it must have the planning commission's consent. Brock said in a Nov. 14 letter to the editor of the Moultrie News that Berkeley County conducts business that way. "Since that is not the process in Mount Pleasant, I wrote the Attorney General for an opinion," Brock said in his letter.

Waging battle with council in the press and bypassing town hall to resolve an issue through the attorney general is not proper protocol for a town board or commission members, Hallman said in his letter.

"It is not the disagreement that we feel strongly about; it is the manner in which you have chosen to bring those issues to the surface. It seems you are always looking for confrontation. That is not the leadership we need from a chairman," the letter states.

Brock said Wednesday that he had not seen the letter.

"That Council would leak such a letter before I receive it the day before Thanksgiving is nearly beyond belief," Brock said. He declined further comment.

Hallman had no comment because he said Brock had not received the letter. "It would just be unfair to him," Hallman said. The letter was mailed late Tuesday, he said.

Brock said in an interview Tuesday that he asked for an attorney general's opinion because the issue of whether the planning commission must recommend approval for Town Council changes to the comprehensive plan had come up often. He said the comprehensive plan is adopted by town ordinance.

If Council approves re-zoning, it also approves necessary corresponding changes to the comprehensive plan. Brock said his position is that the planning commission and the Council should work together to achieve a consensus on changes to the comprehensive plan rather than Council making the changes on its own without consulting the commission.

The comprehensive plan is about the wise and efficient use of public funds, future growth, development, redevelopment and the fiscal impact of planning on property owners, he said.

"My interest is in the planning commission, period. And we're all interested in doing the right thing, and that includes Council," he said. "This is not about power. If it becomes a discussion about power then everybody in it should be embarrassed. This is about making the best possible choices for the town. There isn't anything more important that government does than planning and development. It is a quality of life issue," Brock said.

Brock said asking for the attorney general's opinion was not intended to create an adversarial relationship with Town Council. "A planning commission can not make a town council do anything," he said.

However, planning commission members are the experts on the comprehensive plan, and should have a say when Council amends the plan, Brock said.

The attorney general's opinion concluded that "the local planning commission must recommend the comprehensive plan or the changes thereto in order for the local governing body to adopt such a plan or revisions to a plan."

Town Attorney Allen Young has said the attorney general's opinion is a misreading and misstatement of the law. State law does require the planning commission to be part of the legal process in developing and amending a town comprehensive plan. The role of the commission includes a recommendation to council. The South Carolina Planning Act of 1994 does not require a town council to adopt the specific recommendation of the planning commission, Young said.

Council cannot act before the commission makes a recommendation. That was the ruling in the court case of McClanahan versus Richland County Council, he said. However, the court did not say that the council must adopt the "specific recommendation" of the planning commission, Young said. "The final authority is not with the appointed body but with the elected body, town council. This is a clear principle in the law," Young said.