In lieu of comments made by the Kilmarnock town council last week, members of the planning commission agreed that they needed a role in the town’s Capital Improvement Plan.
Although satisfied with the joint session held Oct. 11 between the town council and the planning commission, Commissioner Steve Bonner and Secretary Lindsy Gardner described the ways in which the commission should be involved in the CIP.
“As I stated in the August meeting of the Planning Commission, I feel that the Planning Commission should certainly have input on the Capital Improvement Plan in areas that deal with land use, such as the Technology Park and Town Centre,” Gardner stated. “I think that Capital Improvement Plan should be a team effort between staff and any relevant committees.”
Bonner agreed. “The Town of Kilmarnock Planning Commission has always been involved in creating a CIP except for the past two years,” he said. “I feel the commission should be part of this process to keep cost down, efficiency up and have the input of others.”
The issue came under scrutiny after council member Shawn Donahue sought clarification of the planning commission’s role in the CIP during the Oct. 11 joint session, but was denied by fellow council member Rebecca Nunn, who cited a section of the state code saying that the Planning Commission “may” be involved in the process.
The Virginia law, titled 15.2-2239, reads: “A local planning commission may, and at the direction of the governing body shall, prepare and revise annually a capital improvement program based on the comprehensive plan of the locality for a period not to exceed the ensuing five years.”
Bonner cited “may” as the key word in the stature and presented a different interpretation of the state code with an e-mail from Senior Attorney Jeffrey Sharp of the Division of Legislative Services.
Sharp said in the e-mail: “In my opinion, a planning commission has authority under the Code of Virginia to prepare a CIP notwithstanding the approval of any other local official or entity.”
Sharp added that while the council appoints the commissioners, the planning commission is allowed to perform certain functions without the consent of the council, which, by Sharp’s interpretation, includes preparing and revising the CIP.
“The planning commission’s recommendations are not binding on a governing body, so it is hard to imagine the grounds upon which a governing body would seek to prohibit a planning commission from performing this duty,” Sharp believed.
Bonner noted that the planning commission had not been involved in the CIP for the past two years.
“There is so much more the council could depend on the planning commission to do when it comes to ideas and future growth of the town, but the CIP is our responsibility and I for one, will continue to bring this up until the state code and our bylaws are followed and not just brushed to the side as if they don’t exist,” Bonner said.