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Jerry Davis leaves Planning Comm. meeting in fit of rage

Jerry Davis leaves Planning Comm. meeting in fit of rage
Northern Neck Planning District Planning Office Executive Director Jerry Davis stormed out of this Monday’s Westmoreland Planning Commission meeting in a fit of outrage. His abrupt departure created uncertainty about the last leg of the jurisdiction’s efforts to construct its new Comprehensive Plan.
Work on a new Westmoreland County Comprehensive Plan began two years ago under the direction of the county planning commission and the district planning office. The Commission’s August 2 agenda stated an intention to consider adoption of a document that incorporated the set of changes and new materials submitted prior to the conclusion of the July 7 public comment segment.

New sets of revisions were proposed from the floor during this Monday’s meeting and Davis let it be known that he was ready to proceed with adoption of the new Plan. The Commissioners have only the authority to accept the draft document and forward it to the Supervisors for actual approval.
Nicholas Smith, Lynn Brownley and Kennon Morris all critiqued the newest Comp Plan draft on August 2 and Commission Chair John Felt’s willingness to entertain eleventh hour comments did not please the Executive Director credited with formulating the language in the Plan.
Davis was not present on July 7, when District 3 Westmoreland County Supervisor Brownley was the only speaker delivering comment during that advertised Comp Plan public hearing. The Supervisor delivered a detailed set of proposals intended to strengthen the proposed Plan’s treatment of conservation practices and heritage resource management policies.
On multiple prior occasions Brownley actively participated in the effort to craft a new Westmoreland County Comprehensive Plan. When he returned to the podium this Monday, he told the Commission the Plan needs more work and is not yet ready for adoption. He faulted the draft document’s sentence structure and cited logical inconsistencies.
“I propose a technical review to rewrite the whole thing,” said Brownley. With referenced text projected on the meeting room wall, he cited example after example of what he characterized as “poorly written work.”
“When I ran for office in 2006 I talked about the need to update the Comprehensive Plan,” the Supervisor told the Planning Commissioners.
“I appreciate all the work everyone has put into this effort, but I think we need to give what we have to someone who can get it into a document you can be proud of ten years from now. What we have in front of us is a mess.”
“It’s the way it’s written,” said Commissioner Jimmy Coates.
“I agree,” Brownley responded. “A lot of it is very well done, but I can show you examples of statistics that don’t agree with one another.”
“I’d like to have a copy of your notes,” Commission Chair John Felt told the District 3 Supervisor.
“So far I’ve only gotten through the first sixteen pages,” Brownley answered. “If you want me to finish, I’ll finish.”
Brownley shared more of his detailed analysis, citing specifics he proposed to either change or amplify. He then reiterated the suggestion that the Commissioners “find somebody who can get this thing straight.
“I probably made Jerry Davis mad. If I did, I apologize,” said Brownley. “I’m sorry, but it needs to be cleaned up.”
Davis made it known that Brownley had not made him mad.
“No,” he answered. “I consider the source.”
“I think we need to schedule another work session,” Commission Chairman Felt interjected.
District 2 Supervisor Russ Culver was present and had listened to Brownley’s detailed critique of the draft document.
“A lot of what Lynn just said is very important,” Culver told the Planning Commissioners. “I think it would be worth our while if we could get Lynn to sit down and go through the whole thing.”
“I hope he’ll send me his notes,” Felt stated.
“I’ll be glad to make the notes on the rest of the Plan and share them, but some of the other four members of the Board of Supervisors might not want to adopt it if they think I wrote the document,” the District 3 Supervisor warned.
Chairman Felt addressed Executive Director Davis with a question. “Can you generate a new, consolidated working draft we can use in this review?”
Davis weighed in without providing a direct response to the Commission Chairman’s question.
“A lot of what he said is off base,” said Davis of the critique delivered by Supervisor Brownley.
“Where was he when we went through this section by section? He was way out of line to show up at the last minute.
“We got involved [at the District Planning Office] at the county’s request and I think a lot of what he said is way out of line. I don’t understand 90 percent of what he said.
“Everyone has their own style. They were ridiculous statements. We want to honor our obligation. We became involved at the request of the county. To ridicule us in a public session and to say it’s a mess is totally out of line,” Davis concluded.
“I don’t think that ridicule was his intent,” the Chair responded.
Davis disagreed.
“It was totally out of line the way it was done and the way it was said,” Davis repeated.
“We went through twenty hours of work session, not one of which he attended. We went through draft after draft and his comments are totally irresponsible. He just wanted to grandstand and ridicule us. It was . . . . “
“I apologize to you, Mr. Davis,” Brownley interrupted.
“Those comments I made were never intended to ridicule. They are facts.”
“Mr Davis, I hope I can convince you to come to our next work session on August 23,” Felt told the Executive Director.
When Davis did not immediately respond, Felt shifted gears and let Davis know his presence would not be mandatory.
“I think we can collate our own documents,” the Chair told Davis. “We would very much like to have your approval of any changes that are made. We all appreciate your effort. It has taken  years to get to where it is today and I think we can fix the pieces Mr. Brownley spoke of during this month’s work session.”
Davis expressed a willingness to continue the effort with a condition.
“I won’t come to meetings and have staff ridiculed,” he stated.
“What [Brownley] said doesn’t bother me because I consider the source.”
Davis then made it known if he had been the Planning Commission Chair, he would have said, “Thank you very much, Mr. Brownley, but let’s move on.”
“Can we do our final review during this month’s work session?” Felt asked the Planning Commissioners.
“I don’t see why not,” responded Coates as the other Commissioners nodded their agreement.
Felt allowed resident Kennon Morris to address the subject from the floor.
“Mr. Brownley was not trying to ridicule,” he stated.
“This county pays the District Planning Office $25,000 a year. When Mr. Davis started working a lot of people didn’t want him in the mix.
“I have to agree with Lynn. If we write a Comprehensive Plan we expect to be good for the next ten to twenty years, it ought to have good grammar . . . “
“I don’t think any of you read it!” shouted Davis as he exited the meeting room.
“We pay his firm $25,000 a year,” Morris repeated. “Nobody’s being critical. I just think if we’re writing a new Comprehensive Plan, it ought to be written right.”
That concluded the August 2 discussion. The Planning Commission’s August 23 work session on the Comprehensive Plan will begin at 2:00 p.m. in A.T. Johnson auditorium.

By Betsy Ficklin
The Journal

 

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