Siler City commissioners vote 4-1 to split town’s planning department

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SILER CITY — The town’s board approved a policy change to split Siler City’s Planning and Community Development department into two separate departments and fund two new positions at its meeting Monday night at Wren Memorial Library.

Commissioner Curtis Brown was the lone dissenting vote.

Town Manager Hank Raper brought the item before the board, saying this was the next step the town needed to take to prepare for the growth coming from Wolfspeed’s planned chip manufacturing facility and other potential development at the Chatham Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) site.

“The amount of development we’re going to see in the next 10 years is radically different than what has been,” Raper said. “We want to be sure that in every possible way we’re prepared for what’s to come.”

The split he proposed would create separate Planning and Community Development departments, dividing the duties of Planning and Community Development Director Jack Meadows. The vote also created Community Development Director and a Code Enforcement Officer position to help provide more services to residents.

Most commissioners were on board with the idea of the split, but Mayor Chip Price voiced his hesitation to split a department that Meadows has headed for about 20 years.

“I see the opportunity for a lot of friction between these two departments,” Price said. “I’m not against this, but I think this is something which could show up at some point in time.”

Raper told Price having two separate departments for planning and community development is what the town needs to accommodate growth, and that town staff would adjust to the split in a professsional manner.

The town experienced a similar switch in its Public Utilities and Public Works departments earlier this year. Commissioner Cindy Bray pointed that out to the board and asked whether this split was any different from the previous one.

“When we decided to split the public works department, we didn’t have this conversation,” Bray said. “That wasn’t an issue, and I understand you want to hear what Jack (Meadows) thinks about this, but we have town manager to make decisions and sometimes he has to make tough decisions.”

Commissioner Lewis Fadely told the board it was important to look at the split as a policy issue rather than a personnel issue.

“We don’t want to cut the legs out from under our new town manager who we just hired this year,” Fadely said. “We need to be looking at where we want to go, where we are, and I think it’s just another step in the process you have to deal with as a policy-making body.”

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Haiges said he believed a split in the department was necessary in the long run for the town’s success.

“In my mind, if we take we take the names out and put the positions next to each other, is this the right thing to do for the town?” Haiges asked the board. “I think it’s the right thing to do for the town.”

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com and on Twitter at @HeedenTaylor.

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