Division in the Kilmarnock Town Council surfaced during a special meeting on Oct. 11 intended to promote unity between the council and the planning commission.
After the council and planning commission discussed the revision of Kilmarnock’s vision statement without disagreement, Shawn Donahue, town council’s planning commission liaison, angered Vice Mayor Emerson Gravatt by seeking clarification of the planning commission’s role in the Capital Improvements Project.
Gravatt stressed that, since the CIP was not included in the agenda, it should not be discussed during the Oct. 11 meeting, nor should it have been brought up by Donahue. “Why did you have to bring that up tonight?” Gravatt asked Donahue.
Council Member Rebecca Nunn answered for him.
“Because he’s a puppet,” Nunn said of Donahue.
Following the meeting, a heated discussion erupted between Gravatt and Mayor Raymond Booth in the parking lot outside the Town Hall. The discussion concerned the two council members’ position on the continued discussion of the Capital Improvements Project.
While Gravatt remained opposed to the CIP being brought up in meetings outside the agenda, Booth believed that the planning commission’s role in the CIP needed to be discussed further.
“I agree that I don’t think that the very narrowly defined purpose of this meeting is inclusive of discussion of the CIP, but it’s not something that we’re not going to talk about again,” Booth said.
Booth added: “It is an issue to be determined: what is appropriate, whether the planning commission is going to be or not be involved in [the CIP], and the interpretation of what the state codes say about what the authority of the planning commission is there. I think at some point you can’t just wish the issue away.”
Donahue reiterated his reasons for seeking clarification on the issue.
“I want to make sure, about the CIP, what the planning commission should be involved in, so going forward, we’re all going to be on the same page, and we’re not going to have public discussion about he-said-she-said about what the planning commission should be involved in,” he said.
Before Gravatt could point out that Donahue could not discuss the CIP because it wasn’t on the agenda, Nunn emphasized that the council could no longer discuss the CIP.
Nunn told Donahue: “I would like to remind you that [the administration and finance committee] made it an action item at the last council meeting that discussion about the CIP and the planning commission is over. It’s not to be brought up again.”
In response to Booth’s belief that the council was trying to “wish the issue away,” Nunn evoked the state code.
“The code says the Planning Commission may be involved. They weren’t. It’s over and done with. It was an action item, we voted on it. It’s not to be discussed anymore at this point. Next year you can discuss it again,” Nunn replied.
But Booth told Nunn: “You voted on a specific matter that was related to it that came up this year. Your determination of what the code says may not agree with mine.”
Nunn answered: “It agrees with [State of Virginia Attorney General] Ken Cuccinelli’s interpretation.”
In other business, the council approved the planning commission chair and former Kilmarnock Mayor Curtis Smith’s recommendation that Commissioner Ann Towner become liaison to Town Planner Marshall Sebra.
Both the planning commission and the town council unanimously supported Smith’s recommendation, and Towner “eagerly accepted” the new appointment.