Planning Board chairwoman accused of bias

Mar. 04, 2013 @ 06:27 PM

Citing a “pattern of bias” in her decision-making when it comes to growth and development issues, Town Councilman Gene Pease has asked Planning Board Chairwoman Del Snow to resign.

Pease made the request in a letter to Snow dated March 3, less than a week after the Town Council approved the controversial Bicycle Apartments student housing project. The approval prompted a critical email message from Snow questioning the council’s commitment to the town’s new 2020 Comprehensive Plan.

The Comprehensive Plan was adopted by council over the summer and is expected to guide growth and development over the next 20 years.

Pease sternly responded to Snow’s letter, contending that she, several other board members and Neighbors for Responsible Growth have taken an unyielding, no-growth stance in spite of their claim to support “responsible growth.”

He also cited Snow’s role in a potential lawsuit against the town to block the controversial Charterwood development off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Snow lives near the proposed mixed-use project approved by the council in September. Neighbors have threatened to sue the town in an attempt to stop the project.

 “You have shown a pattern of bias in your decision making on the Planning Board,” Pease wrote to Snow. “There is a major ethical line that has been crossed with the filing of the lawsuit, therefore I respectfully ask you to resign from the Planning Board.”

Asked Monday afternoon for a response to Pease’s request that she resign, Snow said she was still digesting his letter.

She said Pease’s contention she is leading a lawsuit against the town “is based on speculation and is not true.”

In her email to the council, Snow expressed disappointment that the council didn’t delay making a decision on the Bicycle Apartments until all concerns about the project had been addressed.

 “I found it very distressing that council brought up legitimate concerns that staff could have answered, but chose, instead to act last night (Feb. 27) before answers were received, instead of deferring action,” Snow wrote.

Meanwhile, Pease said anti-development forces in town seem to oppose most development but can’t offer any ideas to increase revenue, which is needed if the town is to continue to offer first-rate services.

 “I’ve concluded in reality they are against growth,” Pease said. “They can’t articulate how we pay for the increased cost of running the town, they don’t want our town services cut, nor do they want their taxes raised, but consistently they are against growth in any form.”  

Pease’s letter isn’t the first time an elected official has asked Snow to resign.

In December, Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich, a former council member, wrote Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt requesting that he ask Snow to resign because Snow came before commissioners to ask them to delay implementation of a half-cent sales tax for transit improvements and a proposed light-rail line between Chapel Hill and Durham without council’s permission.

“In light of this over-reach of power and the pending lawsuit by Ms. Snow against the Town of Chapel Hill, I think it is appropriate that council ask her to resign her position on the Planning Board,” Rich wrote. “Ms. Snow’s interests are in conflict with the town and the citizens of Chapel Hill and I don’t see how she can vote on issues to move the 2020 Comprehensive plan forward given her stated positions.”