In an otherwise uneventful meeting, the Swansboro Board of Commissioners last night surprised everyone in the room, including me, by canceling Monday’s public meeting on the controversial sale of town-owned property in the middle of downtown.
The item to cancel the proposed sale of the property at 106 S. Church Street, fondly known as the “cigar shop,” didn’t appear on the public agenda but had obviously been a topic of private discussion among some board members after the board voted unanimously a week ago to have the special meeting.
Before proceeding to the topics on the agenda, Mayor John Davis said the board would first handle an “administrative” item to cancel the meeting. There were no motions or seconds and no discussion about the reasons for the sudden change of heart. The board was “polled,” and we unanimously agreed to cancel the meeting on the cigar shop. We’ll still have a special meeting Monday night, but it will be about the new budget, now minus the cigar shop.
I can only guess as to why the board for the third consecutive year considered and then rejected a proposal to sell the property. Residents have consistently expressed their opposition to the sale. Dozens of people have written, called or approached me since the topic came up again a few weeks ago. No one was in favor of selling the property. I assume others on the board heard the same thing. The Board of Directors of the Swansboro Area Chamber of Commerce on May 2 unanimously passed a resolution opposing the sale. That probably did it.
I wasn’t in favor of selling the property for the reasons I’ve noted here previously, and I question the irregular way the board handled canceling the meeting. The topic should have been on the public agenda. I’m pleased, though, that this distracting and complicating issue is now out of the way, at least until next year if history is any guide.
Now, maybe we can move on and pass a budget in the next few weeks. I’ll post my thoughts about that as we get closer to Monday’s meeting.
Nothing much happened during the rest of the meeting. We approved a more user-friendly way our ordinances and charter are codified and now appear on the town website. You can now search for subjects that appear in our charter and in all our ordinances.
We also discussed how meeting agendas are set. We have little control over what appears on most agendas. Ordinances and state law determine the timing for hearing permit applications, rezoning requests and the like. We can control what I’ll call the discretionary agenda items, such as discussions about future ordinances or policies. In the past, custom and tradition guided how those topics were chosen – usually a board member would bring up a topic at a meeting and the board would reach a consensus on whether to put it on a future agenda for further discussion. We asked our manager last night to come back with suggestions for setting a policy on how the discretionary portion of meeting agendas are determined.