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The Lake News Online
  • County ends P&Z complaint anonymity

  • The Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission is no longer allowed to investigate anonymous complaints. For years, the P&Z administrator has been taking anonymous phone calls and complaints about P&Z issues and spending time looking into them.
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  • The Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission is no longer allowed to investigate anonymous complaints. For years, the P&Z administrator has been taking anonymous phone calls and complaints about P&Z issues and spending time looking into them.
    In Article 600 of the Land Use Code, anonymous complaints are not referred to at all.
    Instead, Section 601 of Article 600 states, "Whenever the Administrator receives a written, signed and notarized, complaint alleging a violation of this Code, he shall investigate the complaint, take whatever action is warranted, and inform the complainant in writing what actions have been or will be taken."
    District Two Commissioner Cliff Luber feels as if Camden County P&Z has been working outside of their scope as mandated by the Unified Land Use Code.
    "While reading the Land Use Code, there was no indication we had the authority to take anonymous complaints," Luber said during the commission's Jan. 14 meeting.
    Luber presented the rest of the commission, which only consisted of Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken, with a policy change at the meeting. District One Commissioner Beverly Thomas was on vacation.
    The change included the exact wording from Section 601 and stated, "As of the 14 of January, 2014, this policy change will take effect and be the official policy of the Camden County Planning and Zoning."
    Franken spoke up and told Luber that he agreed with the policy change but said that the original policy did not say that anonymous complaints could not be taken. Because of that, he does not feel like P&Z has been working outside of their scope of authority.
    "To my knowledge this is how P&Z has always been ran," Franken added.
    Current P&Z Administrator Don Hathaway backed up Franken's claims.
    "There had been a policy in place when I came to work here where they were taking anonymous complaints," Hathaway said. "We are going back to the code as written; we are going to follow that."
    Hathaway hopes that the policy change will allow his office to get away from getting involved in "neighborhood battles" and use their manpower hours for useful county business. He added that looking into anonymous complaints has added extra work for his staff and that the P&Z office supports the policy change 100 percent. Out of the 55 complaints received last year, P&Z staff estimates that a third of those were anonymous.
    The policy change allows the commission to clear up any confusion and to move forward in a solid direction.
    "If it is a true complaint, they should have no issue writing it down," Luber said. "It also would alleviate the headache of chasing down anonymous complaints."
    Page 2 of 2 - P&Z was notified of the potential change last week and will receive a copy of the new policy. From now on if a complaint is called in, residents will be asked to send in a written formal complaint. The County Clerk will have their notary on hand to notarize complaints that come in. The P&Z department is working on getting an official notary in their office as well.
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