For the second time in as many months, Supervisor Granville Hogg has continued to lobby for an amendment that would limit a Special Use Permit (SUP) to 18 months and require full disclosure of the people who are requesting the zoning change. Once again the majority of the board, including Chairman Spencer Murray pushed back and rejected Hogg’s proposal. Chairman Murray countered that disclosing details of finances and full involvement of all shareholders constituted government overreach as well as being an invasion of privacy. Going down that road would be, according to Murray a “slippery slope”.
While Murray’s concerns are valid, relative to businesses being paid for by county citizens, adding the requirement of knowing who the county is dealing with would seem to fall in line with this board’s much lauded goal of transparency in government. State Code is clear in this matter–counties can require this type of disclosure:
§ 15.2-2289. Localities may provide by ordinance for disclosure of real parties in interest.
In addition to the powers granted by this chapter, localities may provide by ordinance that the local planning commission, governing body or zoning appeals board may require any applicant for a special exception, or a special use permit, amendment to the zoning ordinance or variance to make complete disclosure of the equitable ownership of the real estate to be affected including, in the case of corporate ownership, the name of stockholders, officers and directors and in any case the names and addresses of all of the real parties of interest. However, the requirement of listing names of stockholders, officers and directors shall not apply to a corporation whose stock is traded on a national or local stock exchange and having more than 500 shareholders. In the case of a condominium, the requirement shall apply only to the title owner, contract purchaser, or lessee if they own 10% or more of the units in the condominium.
The rejection of Hogg’s proposal and the proverbial “slippery slope” may have more to do with protecting the ‘Man Behind the Curtain’ than taxpayers that are not conducting business with the county. Why would Murray and the rest of the board not want the public to have access to this information? Who really benefits from this protection?
What has been proposed relative to contractor’s obtaining county work does not appear to be in the interest of citizens. The problem is that corporations are separate entities. A person might be the largest delinquent tax payer in the county, but as the president or CEO of a corporation they can be awarded all the county work they can handle. Individuals in business are not afforded the same courtesy, and may be disqualified from getting the work—and not be able to derive the income needed to get off the delinquent tax rolls. It would seem logical that taxpayers should be aware of who, where and how their money is being spent.
The board did approve a zoning text amendment proposal aimed at simplifying existing language, changing the word “plat” in a section of code with “application”.