Planning Board short list is shortsighted

I was disappointed to learn that the “short list” of recent applicants to fill the Buncombe County Planning Board vacancies is loaded with real-estate agents, a second-home developer, a mortgage broker and construction contractors. I believe the commissioners should strive to eliminate all appearance of conflict of interest within the membership of the Planning Board by better balancing its roster of members.

Have they not heard—or are they simply ignoring—the concerned voices from county residents during the last year who, with undeniable presence and persistence, have attended numerous Planning Board and commissioner meetings to express perspective and offer observations, as well as contest many of the increasingly large-scale mountain development projects? The public has frequently coupled this with logical, fact-based recommendations to the Planning Board about these same development projects that are radically changing the face and character of our mountains and valleys here in Buncombe County. The current procedural methods have also been openly and widely criticized and questioned as not being in step with the community’s concerns.

For instance, why are not Joe Sechler and Richard Soderquist on the commissioners’ short list? Both have applied for board membership and are eminently qualified, possessing sufficient technical skill sets that lend themselves well to the task, and both have demonstrated community leadership. Unlike others on the short list of applicants, they are not tarnished with possible conflict of interest in the real-estate (or related) business. Seems like an obvious choice to me.

— Robert Edsall


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