The Troutman Planning and Zoning Board met recently to discuss and clarify various procedures and state statutes to improve its operation and functioning as it confronts explosive growth and mounting zoning requests. Mayor Teross Young and several town council members also attended.

Town Planner Lynne Hair opened the meeting, noting the importance of maintaining a sense of respect to the board and the staff during planning board meetings and of keeping the board’s procedures in mind.

One recommendation was to have a roll call on each vote, which would be helpful to both the town clerk and the streaming audience.

The mayor also suggested restating the motion to make it clear for the clerk and those in attendance, especially on conditional zoning motions, which may include a list of specific conditions to which the developer agrees.

Town Attorney Gary Thomas reviewed several statutes that apply to planning and zoning boards. He noted that Statute 160 D states that towns “may” have a planning and zoning board, but it is not required.

The board’s duties include preparing, reviewing, and updating the comprehensive land use plan, facilitating public engagement, and sending recommendations to the town council. The board has no final decision authority.

Troutman’s Unified Development Ordinance gives the board only two duties: to review and make recommendations on major development plans, maps, and text amendments.


Thomas also said only the town council is required by state statute to have public hearings and comment on zoning requests.

Thomas said the planning board should have a discussion with the town council about whether public comment should even continue in planning meetings. He said the board members are actually representatives of the public, not elected officials.

The planning board can choose to only review and discuss plans among themselves. Since community meetings are often required on zoning requests, the board can consider those comments instead.

Thomas said that the Town of Davidson does not allow public comment at its planning and zoning meetings, with only the applicant speaking.

The planning board was also reminded that, if allowed, public comment is limited to three minutes by town policy. Public comment should be a period of providing information to the board and not become a dialogue or a question and answer session, added Thomas.

Mayor Young commented that meetings that have less formality also have more potential to become out of control. Young found it disrespectful to others for speakers to go over their allotted time.

Thomas also clarified that board discussion and comment on a zoning case should occur only after a motion to approve or deny is made. After a motion is made, no more public interaction should occur. The chair has the duty to control the proceeding to ensure no more public interaction occurs.

The mayor commented that chairing a meeting is difficult and that Troutman has been permissive about its rules and procedures because of its smaller size. Young also reminded board members that public comment should be made only to the board members — not applicants, staff members or other attendees.

Board member should also only respond to public comments, if they choose to do so, in a professional way at the appropriate time to avoid confrontation or the meeting getting out of control.

The three-minute time limit should also be strictly adhered to. To move the meeting along, the chair can also ask who agrees with the person speaking and get a show of hands. Then comments can be limited to only those with something new to to avoid repetition.

Planning board member Karen Van Vliet asked if board members were obligated to answer audience questions.

Hair said that planning and zoning boards are formal meetings and explained that the chair should not allow the public to ask questions of individual board members, reminding the questioner that “this is your opportunity to give information to the board.”

A board member can go up to a questioner after the meeting and note that they heard the question and will have the appropriate person respond in the near future.

Board members can instead tell the person to call the appropriate person for accurate information, noting that the board is not ignoring their question but rather asking the questioner to get accurate information from the appropriate staff member.

Council member Paul Henkel agreed with the mayor that formality and decorum is important because attendees cannot be allowed to run the meeting. Board members’ responsibility is to listen intently during public comment but adhere to the three-minute time limits.

Henkel noted that board members have to realize they can’t be everyone’s friend and must require everyone to act like adults. They can’t get bogged down in discussion but keep the flow of the meeting going to reach a decision.


The board members absolutely should not discuss a zoning case before a motion is made, according to Thomas, because it can cause legal issues down the road if an applicant chooses to appeal a ruling.

Mayor Young noted that after a motion is made, seconded, and discussed, the board can either pass or deny the motion, or the person who made the original motion can withdraw it and present a new motion to be considered, if necessary.

Another suggestion was that after the motion is made and seconded, the chair could ask members one by one for comment and then move to the vote to create an orderly procedure and ensure everyone on the board gets a chance to speak.

The person who made the motion can also ask for an amendment to the motion to add conditions after board discussion.

Thomas also noted that when a motion is made, it should be a motion to recommend to the council, not a recommendation for approval, since only the town council can approve zoning items. 


Hair noted that the board can ask the applicant for conditions that are connected to the project and see if they will agree to it. Even if developers don’t agree, the board can make any suggestions to improve a project in its recommendation to town council.

Hair also reminded the board that projects that can be built by right cannot be required to add conditions to the zoning request. The town cannot demand an applicant ask for conditional zoning if the project meets the future land map and zoning requirements.

However, the planning and zoning board can request amendments to the UDO that would require more conditional zoning. Hair said that the town has to give people land use by right. “We cannot make all zoning conditional,” she said.

Planning board member Brent Tedder suggested creating a baseline set of conditions that the board could then add onto its recommendations. Hair agreed that was a great idea. This could be given to developers ahead of time and then the planning board could add to this baseline as necessary.

Hair said that they could discuss some baseline conditions at a future meeting that could then be reviewed by the town council. She said she would start a list of conditions and then members could add to them by email so that they could have a list to consider at the April meeting.

Thomas added that, in most cases, the review process by the planning department, UDO requirements, and traffic impact analysis will take care of any issues.


Thomas said that by state statute, if recommendations are not not made by the Planning and Zoning Board within a 30-day time frame, the council can act without its recommendation.

Thomas also said that the town council should not consider an item that has not been acted upon by the planning board until 30 days after the packet is sent to board members.

Since town council meetings can occur before the 30 days are up, the council should technically not consider an item until six weeks after the packet is received by planning board.

The planning board can table an item to a specific date within those 30 days to get more information and then hold a special meeting to decide on the request. They can also ask the council for more time than the 30 days allowed by statute, if the council agrees to it.

To better prepare for meetings and get individual questions resolved before a meeting, Hair recommended that board members drop in on Fridays, without creating a quorum, before the Monday meetings to ask questions, or they can call her at any time. She also pledged to get packets out one week before the meeting.

Hair noted that the planning staff values the board members’ input because they give seven unique perspectives on projects that help the staff be better prepared.

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