By-Laws of the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission
ADOPTED: APRIL 16, 2002
ARTICLE I - GENERAL
Section 8-24-14 of the West Virginia Code authorizes a commission to "exercise general supervision of and make rules and regulations for the administration of the affairs of the commission" and "prescribe uniform rules and regulations pertaining to its investigations and hearings." These by-laws are adopted to ensure the orderly conduct of Commission business and fair treatment of all parties, and are supplemental to the requirements of the West Virginia Code.
ARTICLE II - ORGANIZATION
1. Name - The official name of this commission shall be the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission.
2. Election of Officers - Each January, the members shall designate one member to be a president, one member to be a vice president, and one member to be a secretary. The vice president shall assume the duties of president if the president is absent or incapacitated. In the event of the resignation or death of the president, the vice president shall serve as president until such time as the Commission elects a mew president in a special election or regular annual election. The president shall schedule hearings and meetings and rule on procedural matters. The secretary shall certify the comprehensive plan, and in the absence of the recording secretary, other legal documents as may be required. The Commission may appoint a parliamentarian.
3. Quorum - A majority of the voting members of the Planning and Zoning Commission, i.e. at least six voting members, constitutes a quorum. A quorum shall be present before the Commission can hold a meeting. A meeting is defined as the gathering of three or more members, voting and/or non-voting, for the purpose of discussing issues or conducting business relating to the Commission. This does not extend to field visits to properties pending action before the board, provided that the merits of the project are not discussed during the field visit, and to social gatherings where no business is discussed.
4. Composition - The Commission shall consist of eleven residents of Jefferson County, qualified for membership by knowledge and experience in matters pertaining to the development of the county, as set forth in Section 8-24-6 of the State Code. One of these eleven members shall be a member of the Jefferson County Commission. The President shall notify the County Administrator of vacancies on the Commission, requesting that the County Commissioners appoint a new commissioner to fill the vacancy. Each incorporated municipality may send a representative to serve on the planning commission as authorized by statute.
5. Staff - The Chief Planner of the Jefferson County Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering, or his designee(s), shall serve as the staff of the Commission. When necessary, Staff shall make points of order in an advisory role to the President, who shall rule on all procedural matters. Staff will serve as recording secretary of the Commission. Staff will execute an audio taped recording of all proceedings of the Commission, and prepare correspondence as directed by majority vote of the Commission. Staff shall retain the original tapes of all planning commission meetings for a period of five years following the date on which they were recorded.
Except as prescribed otherwise by law, the Executive Director of the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering shall be the custodian of the records of the Commission, shall accept and process applications, motions and correspondence to the Board and shall maintain the docket in each case.
6. Legal Advisor - The Office of the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney shall be the legal advisor to the Commission and its staff. This shall not be construed to prevent parties to have the benefit of counsel presenting their cases, nor to prevent members of the Commission who are attorneys to offer their opinions during deliberation of cases. When circumstances arise that the office of the prosecuting attorney has a conflict of interest on any issue or in any case in which the Planning and Zoning Commission may need legal advice, the Commission may request the County Commission to allocate funds for procuring the services of outside counsel to serve in the prosecuting attorney's stead. Outside counsel shall provide advice to the Planning and Zoning Commission only on matters for which the Prosecuting Attorney has been recused.
7.Committees - The President shall have the authority to appoint committees.
8. Budget - The Commission's budget, as committed by the County Commission, shall be administered by the Executive Director of the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering. No Commissioner, staff member, or act of the Commission may commit funds without first receiving authorization from the Executive Director. During the annual budget cycle, the Commission may submit requests to the executive director for funding of specific initiatives, projects, etc The executive director shall give consideration to such requests when formulating the department's budget proposal for submission to the County Commission.
ARTICLE Ill - MEETINGS, HEARINGS AND INVESTIGATIONS
1. Regular Meetings and Hearings - In order to conduct routine business, the Commission shall establish standard days of the month and times of the day, on which to hold regular meetings.
2. Special Meetings and Hearings - Special meetings maybe called by the President, or by three voting members upon written request to staff. Staff shall send notice of the date, time, location and general subject matter of the meeting at least seven days prior to the special meeting.
3. Public Notice - Notice of regular and special meetings shall be advertised and posted in accordance with State law, and the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision Ordinance.
4. Open Meetings - Meetings and work sessions of the Commission shall be open to public attendance in accordance State law. The Commission may close a meeting and retire into executive session to discuss personnel matters, pending litigation, or other matters as pemutted under State law
5 Record of Meetings and Hearings - Staff shall execute an audio tape recording of all meetings and hearings of the Commission. Parties desiring a transcript of the proceedings must provide their own stenographer, or purchase copies of the tape(s) from the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering, pursuant to policies set forth by that Department. Original hearing tapes are not to be made available for general use. Staff, as secretary, shall prepare minutes of each meeting for review, amendment and approval by the Commission. These minutes shall include a record of all parties who appeared and offered testimony during the meeting.
6. Order of Business - The order of business, meetings, hearings and investigations shall be governed by Roberts's Rules of Order, Revised
7. Maintenance of Order - All persons attending Commission meetings are expected to maintain order and decorum and to refrain from disturbing the orderly process of the meeting through such actions as (but not limited to) applauding, jeering, heckling, conducting audible side conversations or displaying signs that block the view of those attending the hearing. The President shall maintain order and recess the hearing if any uncontrollable disorder occurs.
8. Fees - An application shall not be heard by the Commission if an applicant is in arrears of applicable fees associated with the proposal, as determined by the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering.
9. Conduct of Meetings and Hearings - A printed agenda shall be made available prior to the start of a meeting or hearing. This maybe waived for meetings where there is only one agenda item to be discussed At the outset of the meeting, pending minutes, requests for continuances and any pending motions shall be addressed. The President shall then proceed to call agenda items in the order they appear on the printed agenda. The President may deviate from the printed order on the agenda if in the President's opinion, circumstances warrant. Cases shall be heard in accordance with Article 3, Section 6, above. After the conclusion of testimony, answers provided to technical and procedural questions directed toward staff shall not reopen the hearing.
10. Multiple Hearings - In cases involving multiple hearings, no Commissioner shall deliberate or vote on a proposal unless they have attended all hearings or reviewed the hearing tapes of those hearings they may have missed. Prior to deliberating the case, Commissioners who may have missed one or more hearings and want to participate in deliberations shall state on the record that they have reviewed the hearings tapes of those hearings they missed, reviewed the evidence submitted in the hearings from which they were absent; and attest on the record to having met this requirement.
11. Request for Staff Analysis - Upon a majority vote, the Commission may direct staff to compile a written technical analysis of a proposal submitted for review. Such technical analysis shall include a description of the proposal, analysis of conformity with applicable ordinances, and a recommendation of action. Such report shall be considered impartial staff analysis and does not constitute advocacy for or against a proposal.
12. Voting - Each voting member participating in a hearing shall vote for or against each motion. Abstention is not permitted. Voting by proxy is not permitted.
13. Written Notification of Decision - Parties to a proceeding shall be informed in writing of the decision rendered by the Commission. Copy of the minutes of the proceeding shall satisfy this requirement.
14. Appeals - Appeals of decisions made by the Commission are subject to appeal to the Circuit Court or the Zoning Board of Appeals, whichever is applicable.
ARTICLE IV0 - STANDARDS FOR THE ETHICAL CONSIDERATION OF APPLICATIONS
1. Purpose - Independence and impartiality of public officials and employees are essential for maintenance of the confidence of the citizens in the operation of a democratic government. The decisions and actions of public officials and public employees must be made free from bias, prejudice, undue influence, favoritism or threat In order to maintain the community's trust that this Commission is conducting its business in a fair and impartial manner, the following standards for Commissioner participation shall apply. For the purposes only of this Article, a party to an application includes the applicant, their counsel and contractors, supporters, opponents and nearby property owners, regardless of their position on the pending application.
2. Standards - The Planning and Zoning Commission, as a body, and its members individually shall;
A. Exercise independent judgement when evaluating applications and issues within the powers and limitations set forth by State law and County Ordinances. The Planning and Zoning Commission shall evaluate applications that come before it as they relate to the Comprehensive Plan, applicable State law and County Ordinances, and not to any agenda, mission or purpose, public or private, that is not stated policy of the Planning and Zoning Commission.
B. Treat all parties fairly and without bias or prejudice.
C. Pursuant to County Ordinances, ensure that adequate opportunity for public comment is made available before a decision is made regarding any application or any stage of the Comprehensive Plan process that directly affects land use policies to be held by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
D. Become knowledgeable of the processes, regulations, laws and procedures of the Commission in order to ensure efficient management of Commission business.
E. Strive to ensure that approved development proposals are the best possible product that can be achieved as related to the property that it is proposed for, and the community within which it is located
F. Respect the decisions made by the Planning and Zoning Commission and make no public or private attempts to undermine or reverse its decisions regarding applications, except as provided for by these rules.
3. Prohibited activities - Members of the Planning Commission shall not engage in the following activities:
A. Engage in any activity that is prohibited by Chapter 6B, Article 2 of the West Virginia Code.
B. Represent or appear on behalf of any other party before the Commission or the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering, for a fee or unpaid during their service on the Commission, or for one year after leaving the Commission. A Commissioner is not precluded from representing their own interests before the Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering.
C. Participate in discussion on or vote upon
any issue before the Commission where the Commissioner
. . 1. has a reasonable probability of financial interest in the property involved and/or the decision to be rendered,
. . 2. is related by blood or mamage to any party with a financial interest in the property involved and/or the decision to be rendered or who provides testimony in an application. Affected relations shall include direct lineal relations, siblings, uncles and aunts, first cousins and nieces and nephews.
. . 3. is an officer or shareholder, or has a financial interest in an organization, corporation or limited liability company where that organization is a party to the application or presented testimony for or against the proposal, or
. . 4. in any case where the Commissioner is engaged in a employment relationship with any party to the case.
D. Ex Parte Communications are informal or
private communications outside the scope of a meeting from a party in a matter
pending before the Planning and Zoning Commission. A Commissioner shall not
knowingly initiate, permit or consider ex parte communications or consider
other communications made to the Commissioner outside the scope of a meeting of
the Commission concerning a pending matter. All information, testimony,
evidence and any other communications pertaining to a pending matter before the
Commission shall be presented at a meeting of the Commission, not in private,
unofficially or with parties absent, except that:
. . 1. Ex parte communications for scheduling or administrative purposes that do not pertain to the substance of matters or issues or the merits are authorized, provided:
. . . . A. No party will gain an advantage as a result of the ex parte communication and
. . . . B. The Commissioner promptly notifies the Commission through the staff of the ex parte communication.
. .2. The Commission shall from time to time update and rewrite the Comprehensive Plan. During this process, Commissioners may receive ex parte communications regarding the Comprehensive Plan. It is noted that the Commission is acting in advisory capacity for the County Commission during the process of amending and updating the Comprehensive Plan.
See attached official commentary for examples of ex-parte communication.
4. Recusal from Service - A Commissioner shall recuse himself or herself from any matter in which a breach of ethical considerations has occurred~ The Commissioner should err on the side of caution to avoid an appearance of impropriety. The Commissioner shall state on the record the reason for the recusal or the declination to recuse and provide a statement on the record explaining the Commissioner's decision.
5. Violation of this Article - Should it appear that a Commissioner breach the terms of this article, the President shall refer the perceived violation of these By-Laws to the County Commission for their information and action.
ARTICLE V - SEVERABILITY, REPEAL OF EXISTING BY-LAWS, AND AMENDMENT
1. If any clause, sentence, part or parts of these by-laws, or of any section thereof, shall be held unconstitutional or invalid, such unconstitutionality or invalidity shall not affect the validity of the remaining parts of these bylaws or of any section thereof. Whenever a provision of these bylaws is in conflict with the State Code of West Virginia, the provisions of the State Code shall be controlling.
2. Upon the adoption of these by-laws, the existing by-laws of the Jefferson County Planning Commission, as adopted on August 24, 1967 and periodically amended, and the Code of Ethics, as adopted on June 8, 1968, are repealed in whole and replaced with these by-laws and code of ethics.
3. Any interested person may petition the Commission to adopt, amend or repeal any part of its by-laws Such a request shall be made in writing, and contain specific written proposed changes. The adoption of a proposed amendment shall be by a majority vote of the Commission (six votes).
ADOPTED BY THE JEFFERSON COUNTY PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION THIS 16TH DAY OF APRIL, 2002:
W. Scott Coyle, President / Arnold W Dailey, Jr., Secretary
Examples of prohibited ex parte communications may include, but not be limited to
1. Deliberation toward a decision on the merits of any issue or matter pending before the Commission with other Commissioners outside the format of a public meeting of the Commission.
2. Discussion of the substantive merits of any matter pending before the Commissioners outside the format of a public meeting of the Commission.
3. Discussion of the merits of any matter pending before the Commission with parties to an application outside the format of a public meeting of the Commission.
4. Participation in or attendance at any meeting where discussion regarding matters before the Commission will be aired other than the meetings of the Commission. At meetings where there are multiple agenda items, Commissioners need only excuse themselves from the meeting in those matters that may come before the Planning and Zoning Commission are being discussed. Advisory members from municipal planning commissions may report to their municipal commission and receive instructions from the municipal commission to carry out their role as an advisory member of the Jefferson County Planning Commission.
5. Commissioners shall not present evidence in any matter pending before the Commission.
6. Commissioners shall not publicly express support for or opposition to any matter pending before the Planning and Zoning Commission prior to receiving all evidence and testimony pertaining to that matter.
7 Commissioners shall avoid making any public statement in support of or in opposition to any matter pending before this commission outside the scope of a public meeting of the Commission.
8. Commissioners shall not make any statement about a matter pending before the Commission outside the scope of a meeting which might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness or impartiality of Commission decisions.