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INVESTIGATION: An in-depth look at the Greenville Board of Adjus - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

INVESTIGATION: An in-depth look at the Greenville Board of Adjustment

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -
"A quorum." Those words are exactly what tattoo shop owner Daniel Lalone needed to hear from the Greenville Board of Adjustment at its May hearing.

"It's a relief because it's been stretching out for a couple months now," Lalone said.

For months, Lalone's been waiting for the board to allow him to open his tattoo shop.

When he went before the board in April, only two of the board's members showed up on-time. Another came in late.

"I feel almost disrespected because those folks are elected officials, whether they'd be volunteer or not, to do a civic duty to the community," Lalone said.

The Board of Adjustment's made up of 11 volunteers representing Greenville and parts of Pitt County who approve special-use permits. These allow exceptions for businesses like restaurants, bars and clubs to operate in areas zoned for a different purpose.

Though sometimes board members don't even show up to the once-a-month meetings.

Public records indicate from May 2013 to May 2014, the board canceled meetings three times because they had less than the six members needed to approve permits.

Costly cancellations for businesses owners like Lalone.

"You have to pay the bills for another month," Lalone said. "Plus, you can't do business for another month. It makes it hard for everyone who works and their families. It was a huge setback for us"

9 On Your Side examined each board member's attendance from 2010 to present day.

The city clerk's office says a board member must make 75 percent of meetings a year starting from the month they begin their term, and they can't miss three meetings in a row. Otherwise, the city clerk sends a letter demanding a board member decide whether to continue working.

Based on these guidelines, two members' attendance records stand out.

Board member Sharon Ferris hasn't attended a meeting since September 2013.

Thomas Taft Jr. missed half of the scheduled meetings from September 2012 to September 2013.

But Ferris is the only one whose attendance was questioned by the city clerk.

9 On Your Side reached out to the Greenville planning division, which oversees the board, for comment.

Chief planner Thomas Weitnauer e-mailed a statement saying of the 11 board positions, three positions are unfilled making it a "disadvantage" when trying to reach a quorum of six.

Two of those positions are supposed to be appointed by the Pitt County Board of Commissioners.

"The county has not received applications for the seats as it is difficult for people to qualify as candidates must reside within our extraterritorial (ETJ) boundary, the ring between the outer city limits and our ETJ, Weitnauer wrote. "If the county doesn't receive applications, they can't appoint members."

The third vacant position he's referring to is Ferris' seat.

She said she couldn't attend those once a month meetings because she had a baby and didn't want to leave her newborn.

"I know some of the absences have been due to hospitalizations or sickness or someone in the family that has an illness; things that anybody would understand that well there are things that are more important than this one night out of the month," Ferris said.

She also questioned how much money business owners like Lalone lose when a board meeting gets canceled.

"I don't know how much business they'd be losing in a month granted I understand that any business loss is a concern," she added.

But Lalone said with the anxiety his employees and their families had about their job, "there's no excuse why a person can't make a meeting one day out of the month."

Taft declined to comment on his attendance.

Ferris she doesn't plan to renew her term once it ends in June 2014.

The city council is considering an ordinance to swap one of those vacant county positions for another city position possibly making it easier to obtain quorum.
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