As someone who has served on the Lewisville Board of Adjustment in the past I read this post by attorney Tom Terrell with more than a passing interest. Basically he lauds the Harnett County Board of Adjustment for their hard work on a landfill case that took 33 hours spread over six nights to conclude. Most people have no clue what boards of adjustment do, and quite frankly the people who volunteer their time to serve on most municipal boards like BOAs don't get enough credit for their efforts, so it's nice to see when someone who deals with them on a professional level takes the time to give them their due. Here's a bit of what he wrote:
After six nights and 33 hours of testimony and deliberation, the Harnett County Board of Adjustment reached a decision this week regarding a Conditional Use Permit for a regional landfill. It was a marathon. I know, because I was there…
The hearing demonstrated why we desperately need quasi-judicial proceedings and, despite what I consider to be demonstrable legal flaws in the decision itself, provided a showcase example of how a BOA should operate.
Quasi-judicial proceedings establish evidentiary frameworks for unpopular but necessary land uses. Without them, the alternative is a decision based purely on emotion and, sometimes, hysteria. Or bad math. (Let’s just count the number of people in the room for and against and let it be “democratic” despite what our comprehensive plan says, despite what our zoning ordinance says, despite what our staff says, and despite what our planning board says)…
But my other point is that this BOA was among the best I’ve ever seen in how it handled the hearing itself. Each night board members systematically disclosed calls from the media and emails from neighbors and how they handled them. They disclosed civic and personal connections with witnesses.
The board chair did a better job ruling on objections by attorneys than most judges I’ve been in front of, and he gave some leeway to members of the public to stray from true evidence (in one case, a speech on “the purpose of man”) and to relate blatant hearsay conversations while instructing and reminding board members what can and cannot be considered as evidence.
He also praised the Harnett County staff members and I think he's absolutely spot on when he says that "I’ve learned never to underestimate the importance of working with good staff." I've been lucky enough to work with many of the staff members in Lewisville and I can say that it has always been an enjoyable and rewarding experience.