SUMMERFIELD – A proposal to create the Tomorrow Committee to advise town leaders on immediate needs and long-range planning is creating disagreement among Town Council members.


Some council members question whether the proposal, which is backed by Mayor BJ Barnes and Councilwoman Lynne Williams DeVaney, would overlap the responsibilities of other committees, such as the Zoning Board, and the council itself.


After debating nearly an hour during its Jan. 12 meeting, the council voted to continue discussions about the committee during its next meeting Feb. 9. The issue of committee purpose and member selection was left undecided.


“After listening to this conversation, this has brought no unity to our council,” Mayor Pro Tem Tim Sessoms said. “I’m not sure how it could bring unity to our community.”


The topic was initially discussed during the council’s annual strategic planning retreat a year ago.


As proposed, each of the six council members would select two residents to serve on the committee.


DeVaney envisions the committee advising town leaders on planning and zoning issues, and it would keep town staff and council members informed about immediate needs, such as a park bench needing repair, while helping shape Summerfield’s long-range planning in areas such as recreation, roads and sidewalks.


“It would visualize what we want our town to look like tomorrow, in five years, in 10 years, in 25 years, in 50 years,” she said.


Establishing the committee would encourage more resident involvement and help explore future projects, Barnes said.


If, as an example, a group of residents suggested Summerfield build tennis courts, the committee could investigate costs and other project particulars.


“I see this committee as being more akin to an advisory committee,” the mayor said.


Such involvement risks bogging down the efforts of existing committees, Councilman Reece Walker said, adding concerns that the new committee might lack focus.


“I think your vision is spot on,” Walker told DeVaney. “I don’t know that this is the best way to accomplish it.”


Sessoms said the new committee “would almost be like a mini council. I don’t see the clarity around this.”


He suggested instead creating an ad hoc committee to review and possibly revise the town’s 11-year-old comprehensive plan.


Council member Teresa Pegram said she initially supported the proposal for the new committee and liked that each council member could select two members. However, a proposed change to the ordinance regulating committees says council members would evaluate candidates for the Tomorrow Committee.


“Why are we not following exactly what we said at the retreat?” Pegram asked.



Councilman John O’Day answered that he wants the opportunity to review applicants. Walker agreed, saying he’d favor appointing members to the Tomorrow Committee in the same way the council evaluates and selects candidates for other committees.