BERRYVILLE — Town officials are seeking three new members for the Boyce Planning Commission to replace ones who recently resigned, according to Mayor Richard Kibler
Kibler said Chairman Dennis Utterback, Vice Chairman Patrick Knight and member Mary Martin all submitted their resignations in response to an article in The Winchester Star earlier this month. The story concerned Boyce Town Council’s unhappiness with the commission’s lack of progress in developing a capital improvements plan (CIP) and revising the zoning ordinance.
Currently on the commission, the town’s website shows, are Linnea Michaels Godwin and Elizabeth McCorkle, as well as Zack Hudson, the council’s representative.
During the Feb. 2 council meeting, Utterback told council members that some commission members think those tasks are “a bit too much” for them to handle, not having a lot of formal experience with planning and zoning issues.
Council members indicated during the meeting they might consider ousting current planning commission members and appointing new ones if significant progress couldn’t be made soon.
The meeting was in open session when the council members voiced their unhappiness.
In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Kibler attacked the newspaper’s coverage of the discussion.
“Every time you turn around, you’re smearing Boyce,” Kibler said.
Although council’s comments about the planning commission were made during a public meeting, Kibler replied that “not everything should be printed” in the paper.
Kibler declined to comment further.
In six of the past 12 months, the planning commission didn’t meet because of a lack of zoning applications to consider and COVID-19 concerns, officials have said.
Boyce is a town of about 600 residents in Clarke County. It covers less than a square mile. There are only three municipal employees — a town manager, treasurer and code enforcement officer — and each is part-time.
As of the last council meeting, the code enforcement officer’s position was vacant.
During the Feb. 2 meeting, council Recorder Ruth Hayes said help from Clarke County planning and zoning staff is needed to guide the commission. Councilman Dennis Hall responded that “we need to get something from them” because Boyce residents pay county taxes.
The county provides Boyce planning and zoning assistance under a memorandum of understanding that the localities entered into about 20 years ago, said county Planning Director Brandon Stidham.
Specifically, the county processes all Boyce zoning-related applications for the town, Stidham said. When applications must go before the planning commission and the council for consideration, county planning and zoning staff makes presentations before those panels, he said.
“We essentially act as their planning and zoning staff to process applications,” he added.
The county doesn’t charge Boyce for its services. Instead, it keeps application fees, Stidham said.
Stidham referred comment to County Administrator Chris Boies when asked whether the county could do more for the town, such as helping to develop a CIP or revise the zoning ordinance.
With only four people on the county’s planning and zoning staff, however, “it would be a challenge to take on additional projects,” said Stidham.
“We’re certainly willing to help,” said Clarke County Board of Supervisors Chairman David Weiss.
But “the county cannot take on the full burden of doing their planning and zoning,” said Weiss, the board’s Buckmarsh District representative. “We don’t have the manpower.”