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The Lake News Online
  • Former P&Z commission member addresses perceived attack on P&Z commission

  • In the waning days of what may easily be the most contentious county political race in recent history, a former member of the Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission has stepped forward in an effort to dispel rumors and what he believes are outright attacks on the integrity of those who serve.
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  • In the waning days of what may easily be the most contentious county political race in recent history, a former member of the Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission has stepped forward in an effort to dispel rumors and what he believes are outright attacks on the integrity of those who serve.
    Planning and zoning issues have ignited a firestorm of controversy during the campaign for the Camden County Presiding Commissioner's seat between incumbent Kris Franken and challenger Greg Hasty. The two Republicans will face off in Tuesday's primary election.
    As the campaign has progressed, supporters of both candidates have gotten involved in the conversation, often prompting responses from the opponents.
    Bill Pragman, who served on the planning and zoning commission from December 14, 2009 until his term expired March 31, 2013, said it has been disheartening to watch and listen to the attacks that have often been based on what he believes is misconstrued information.
    "I was on the Planning & Zoning board for a number of years working with a group of responsible citizens who gave their time, at no cost to the county, to do the best possible job they were capable of," he said. "During those years this board handled hundreds of cases — all on the county record available for anyone to review — and as an individual personally involved in each and every case I can assure you that every one was handled professionally. There were only a very small number that even remotely resulted in a controversy, all of which were eventually resolved."
    Pragman said he is taking a public stand as a former board member who respects everything that planning and zoning stands for and as a person who fully understands the absolute need for it to stay a viable entity in Camden County.
    "To watch those that come to those meetings and do their best to wreak havoc and be forced (public meeting) to listen to fools attack citizens who were trying to do what was best for Camden County was to say the least, trying," he said. "When you add to the mix that some of these souls did not even live in Camden County and of those who did live in the county, many did not live in the P&Z district."
    It was difficult to watch and in some situations, he said, be encouraged by an elected official.
    Pragman discussed a number of statements and accusations that have been made in recent weeks. In particular, the Old Kinderhook issue and the allegations raised that “the major developer slipping through the cracks” as either "incredible incompetence, or malfeasance” is a misrepresentation of the facts to further an attack on a county employee.
    Page 2 of 2 - "Could there be a third possibility? What if it was a clerical error caused by the road and bridge guy retiring at the same time Mr. Hathaway (the former planning director) was run out of his job," he said."I believe the facts support this alternative because as soon as the issue was brought to the attention of the developer he wrote a check to cover the costs. Listening to others who have their own agenda instead of reviewing the facts and reaching the proper conclusion can result in negative results and make people look foolish."
    "Reference has been made in a negative manner to the 'second administrator, hired by Mr. Franken.' Again, that is not an accurate statement. Mr. Hathaway was one of a large number of applicants who were interviewed by a committee made up of members of the planning and zoning Board along with all three County Commissioners and one employee from the department," Pragman said. "This committee unanimously agreed that Mr. Hathaway was the best person for the administrator’s job. And I will publicly state today that his resignation, brought on by the existence of a hostile work environment in the court house, was a serious loss to Camden County."
    Pragman was not reinstated on the commission. He was replaced by a recommendation from Associate Commissioner Cliff Luber. Pragman said he was discouraged but harbored no ill feelings.
    "It is discouraging to give of ones self for what you sincerely believe is for the good of the community and watch people who are ill informed and easily manipulated be used as pawns to openly attack you," he said. "There were several others on the board, Micky
    McDuffy, Paul Arnesmeyer, and others who were also removed from the board when their terms expired and replaced by recommendations from Associate Commissioner Cliff Luber. We saw this as an overt effort to take control of the P&Z board."
    The other side of the planning and zoning controversy has been critical of actions they allege were based on favoritism, accusations of old-fashioned cronyism and uneven application of standards and policies. They have been vocal in their belief that there is an over reach of regulation in the Camden County planning and zoning district that is not stimulating economic growth and development and, is in their opinion, not even managing it.
    Planning and zoning in Camden County has become a tug of war about the role government should play in the development of the lake, and at times, a debate about residents rights versus commercial developer plans.

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