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Huntersville loses three planning board members

HUNTERSVILLE – The town’s Planning Board has dropped to six members from nine in less than two months because three members violated the town’s meeting attendance policy.

Members can be removed from the Planning Board if they are absent for three consecutive meetings, or absent for four total meetings within any 12-month period.

The first member to go was Franklin Freeman, who resigned from the board in mid-January because he had missed three consecutive meetings. Freeman was given the option to let the town Board of Commissioners vote on the matter, but chose to resign.

Melissa Currie was voted off the Planning Board by the town’s Board of Commissioners on Monday because she had missed more than four meetings in a 12-month period.

The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners voted Art VanWingerden off the Huntersville Planning Board at its meeting Tuesday. It was up to the county to remove VanWingerden because he represented Huntersville’s extraterritorial jurisdiction area, which is land outside the town limits that the town has the authority to regulate through zoning and land-use ordinances.

The town commissioners recommended the Board of County Commissioners remove VanWingerden from the Planning Board because he violated both attendance policies: He missed five of six Planning Board meetings held between July and December last year.

“To me, having missed five of the first six meetings … that was an egregious lack of meeting his commitment,” said Hal Bankirer, chairman of the Huntersville Planning Board, in an interview Tuesday.

VanWingerden said in an interview Tuesday that his first priority was the job he gets paid for, and that taking care of his four children takes a lot of time and effort.

“Some things came up and I wasn’t able to make a few meetings. It is what it is,” he said.

Bankirer said every meeting absence is felt because each board member brings his or her own unique experience and knowledge to the table.

“At our next meeting, I will use my bully pulpit to reinforce the attendance issue,” he said.

Bankirer requested at the March 2 meeting that the town Board of Commissioners look over the attendance policy and clarify it if need be.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett, who represents the district that Huntersville is in, said at the county commissioners’ meeting Tuesday that he applauded the town for upholding its attendance policy.

“What they’ve basically done is something I think everybody needs to do,” he said. “They’re saying that if you’re going to serve – and we do appreciate people serving – you at least have to show up and do the work.”

The Huntersville Board of Commissioners is hoping to fill all three vacant Planning Board slots by its meeting April 20.

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