PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING MINUTES
3 JANUARY 2023
The Chair Connie Howell opened the meeting asking Tommy Pope to offer a prayer and lead the pledge. The 29 November Minutes were moved for approval by Tommy Pope and Commissioner Terry Jones and were unanimously approved.
The Chair stated the meeting would address the process and products, e.g. bonds, involved in accepting into the county road system those roads originally developed by subdivision developers. The Chair noted the research she had conducted including previous recommendations from the former county attorney Lucy Henson, e.g., a checklist to be provided to developers. She then asked Road Superintendent Barry Hyatt to provide an overview of that process. Two handouts were distributed showing generic road project percentages by effort and a previous project on Timber Ridge Lane and Timber Ridge Drive showing specifics and cost for bonding purposes. Superintendent Hyatt then addressed the process from his involvement and mentioned the process had not tied down who is supposed to keep the surety bond. He described the process as follows: The developer brings the proposed project to him in the form of a plat which includes all the information necessary for him and for the Planning Commission, and if both he and the Commission are satisfied, he then starts the measurements, e.g. ditches, template on the road, and estimates the cost. The handouts further demonstrated that activity. The bond covers nothing but the roadway and connections to the homes’ driveways. The stages by percentages shown on the handout allow for consideration of either reducing the bond requirement by completion of a certain percentage, e.g., 70 -75% by the developer, or sometimes number of homes already built and the potential of road damage in completing additional homes at a later date. That may require either retaining more of the bond amount (bond based on 120% of estimated cost) or an additional maintenance bond. That bond may have a one – two year in effect date after completion.
Surety bonds and Letters of Credit (referred in these minutes simply as bonds) were used somewhat interchangeable in the discussion, since the differences generally address default for the developer. A maintenance bond provides financial compensation for any workmanship defects discovered after the fact. For retention of the bonds the Chair had asked the County Executive to discuss with the County’s Financial Manager if she has ever retained the bonds, and she said she has not.
Superintendent Hyatt further stated that other counties on Planning Commissions want to hear from other county departments, specifically water, electric, health, 911, and he further stated without those involvements the guidelines have no teeth. He further stated that the other departments need to be part of the process before any preliminary work on roads is started and that has not been sufficiently done in the past. And until the full commission votes nothing is approved. Tommy Pope said until a soil test is performed to determine the ability of soil to absorb and filter water, the owner/developer of the subdivision property cannot start the development. Scott Stewart said the signatures or some form of approval from those entities should be in our guidelines showing required prior to our approval. Discussion then addressed how much of the bond should be held at different times within the development. And that discussion led to concerns about retaining larger parts of the bond and how that affected the developer or how it affected the taxpayer. Some issues within that discussion was the balance between not deterring development since that leads to additional home owners and additional property taxes, and the need to protect the taxpayer from additional cost due to potential damage to roads. Other issues addressed were contractors who generally are not from Giles County and leave without finishing the development or do shoddy work, or large truck owners who pay a relatively large license tax which in their view helps with any potential damage. The Chair expressed a desire to have someone with bond experience provide an educated discussion on bonds, and also, she questioned if the County’s Financial Manager would handle the maintenance of the bonds (question also on whether original is provided or not). After additional discussion she said we need a paper trail, e.g. when to release. She further said that after the discussion the guidelines are pretty complete but may have to add some additions, e.g., percentages and discussion on a maintenance bond. A discussion on who might attend from the development community raised several names but decided at this time not to have that happen. A motion by Scott Stewart and seconded by Commissioner Terry Jones was to send the actual bond to the Financial Manager and was approved unanimously. Commissioner Gayle Jones said that there should be a process of keeping up when due, a master list of the bonds with Financial Management responsible and communicating to the Planning Commission. She also said that some research on what other planning commissions are doing in terms of the various departments involvement is needed. Scott Stewart and Chair Connie Howell agreed to meet to discuss some of the potential changes and bring back to the Commission.
New Business – with no new announcements the next meeting is scheduled for 7 Feb 2023. With Commissioner Terry Jones moving for adjournment, and with John Haislip providing the second, and with all voting unanimously the meeting was adjourned.
ATTENDEES: Members of the Commission – Chair Connie Howell, Malcolm Moore (absent), Kristen Pfeiffer, Tommy Pope, Bill Myers, Scott Stewart, Tamieka Russell, John Haislip Commissioners – Terry Jones, (absent Erin Curry, Annelle Guthrie).
Other Commissioners in attendance –Gayle Jones, David Adams
Other – Road Superintendent Barry Hyatt and Steve Kelley