Thursday night the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners took up the lingering issue of whether to harvest the trees on 102 acres of woodland at the Westwood Industrial Park.
The decision was essentially a vote to not make a decision.
The board voted 3-2 against proceeding with the timber harvest until a plan is in place for harvesting and what to do with the land afterward. Commissioners Shirley Brinkley, Dean Brown and Steve Yokeley each expressed sentiments that there wasn’t enough information in hand to approve the cutting.
We are having a hard time understanding this. As Commissioner Jon Cawley said in responding to their comments, the questions they are asking have by-and-large already been answered, and if the city doesn’t have a firm plan in place regarding whether to replant or grade the land and market it as open industrial property, then the board members have no one to blame but themselves.
The board has been considering this since February 2013 — 16 full months. Forestry officials, city department heads and economic development officials have addressed the board regarding the possible timber harvesting, the public has participated via a public hearing, and city commissioners have had more than ample opportunity to ask questions of the stakekholders and authorities who have been involved in this potential project.
In fact, after making a lot of noise about the potential timber harvest and talking with experts in their respective fields, the commission seemed to let the question fade away until Cawley brought it back up a couple of weeks ago.
Like Cawley, we find it unfathomable that there could still be unanswered questions on a simple timber cutting project that’s been under consideration for 16 months — the Veteran’s Administration seems to move faster than this.
We suggest this: The three board members who still have questions regarding this project should bring those questions — in writing — to the next board meeting. Hand those questions over to City Manager Barbara Jones, who can have her staff assemble the answers and report their findings at the following meeting. Disseminate those answers with the agenda that is distributed to the commissioners prior to that meeting, have a discussion at that second meeting and vote.
We believe the timber should be harvested. Whether that land should be replanted, or graded and marketed, or a combination of both is a question for the city commissioners.
Whichever side of the question the commissioners eventually come down on, it’s time to quit delaying. Gather the information, discuss the pros and cons and make a final vote.