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'Tired of the politics,' ECC planning chair quits

'Homeless items' have been stored in the ECC Planning Office since city hall remodeling.

Sun Advocate reporter

Saying she was "tired of the politics" and "people looking for ways to place blame," East Carbon City's Planning and Zoning board chairperson announced her resignation last week.

Joyce Caviness, who has served on the Planning and Zoning board for a total of nine years, said she was stepping down from her position in a fax sent to the Sun Advocate last Thursday.

Caviness said she loved serving on the board for the city, especially for the people of East Carbon. But recent discussions at city council meetings about property sales have caused her to reevaluate her choice to serve as chairperson.

"It was just enough," she said. "I am very happy to have served the years I have for the city but I will not serve any more under this mayor and city council."

Property sales have been a topic of recent discussion and Mayor LaFontaine, city council members and those looking to purchase properties have been questioning why the process has been considered by some to be long and drawn out. Caviness said she believes the city council did not set and follow the correct procedures for purchasing property from the city. But she acknowledges that the process is not something that can be finished in a day.

"Buying land from the city is not an overnight deal," she said noting the applications, hearings and discussions with city council that must take place.

Caviness said that having small businesses move into the city will help out with tax revenues and local jobs. But the Planning and Zoning board can only help the city in so many ways, she said

"We can recommend the property to be sold, but we can't sell the property ourselves," she said.

Some people, including those looking to purchase property, have asked questions about the Planning and Zoning meetings. Caviness said the board's meetings, which are held every third Thursday of the month, are open to the public, she said. While there have been questions about how the board is operating, Caviness thinks that the Planning and Zoning board has been doing a good job lately. She said that some city council members do not attend Planning and Zoning meetings, which she believes causes problems knowing what is going on with properties being sold by the city.

"People don't seem to know how to buy land going through the city," she said noting the confusion people have found going through both the city council and the Planning and Zoning board. "There are no shortcuts with this."

The process of purchasing property from the city has historically not been a quick process. The board would wait two weeks for a response about issues from the city council between meetings and the entire process of selling a property could take up to four to six weeks to get completed, according to Doug Hintze, an East Carbon resident who served as the chairperson on the Planning and Zoning board for two years.

"It is a long drawn out process and it took a few meetings to get done," said Hintze. "The property sales eventually went through. It was frustrating, but they went through."

Caviness felt there was some unfair criticism towards the board when Mayor Orlando LaFontaine said during a public hearing last week that the Planning and Zoning office was a "disgraceful place". Caviness said that "homeless articles" from around City Hall were put into the office space during the refurbishing period causing problems for people looking for information.

During the council members reports, Councilman David Avery said he thought that some people were bad mouthing the Planning and Zoning board. Avery, who attends the Planning and Zoning meetings but is not a member of the board, said he felt there are some things the planning and zoning board is not responsible for but are being blamed for regardless.

While the current system in place for purchasing property from the city is far from perfect, Avery said the system currently in effect right now for is not a bad one.

"We have a good system if we work within it," said Avery.

After hearing the news of Caviness's resignation, LaFontaine said he was sad to see her leave.

"I feel very bad about this," LaFontaine said in phone interview Thursday. "She didn't do anything wrong. We're losing someone who is an asset to the board."

The Planning and Zoning board and city council have had problems working with each other but in this case the city council is in the wrong, LaFontaine said.

"Planning and zoning is in the right here but the city council is not following the procedures correctly," he said. "The city seems to be working on stopping businesses."

LaFontaine said he is hopeful that the current property purchases will be finished by the next meeting. He said the city council needs to play a bigger role in helping streamline the process of selling property.

"This falls on our shoulders," he said. "It's our responsibility. We've created all of the other hassles."

Caviness has seen things from both sides of the issue as she previously served as a city council member for eight years. During her time working on the planning and zoning board, Caviness said she has never run into the problems with working with the mayor and city council on selling properties.

"I've never seen this as a problem before," she said.

Despite resigning from her position as chairperson, Caviness said she is open to possibly working with the planning and zoning board again in the future, just not in the immediate future.

A new planning and zoning chairperson has yet to be named.

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