By: Benjamin J. Gohs, News Editor
Commissioners disagree over voting rights of planning liaison in proposed Boyne City Planning Ordinance amendment
In 2008 the Planning Enabling Act was enacted statewide to simplify how planning is done across cities, townships and counties.
The Boyne City Planning Commission is looking at making several changes to its existing ordinance to ensure compliance at the state level – and to that end, Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson brought a draft of the changes before Boyne City Commissioners on Jan. 24.
“It replace the three different planning enabling acts that were in place at that time,” he said. “In addition to consolidating those planning acts there was also a number of changes in regards to how planning commissions operated – their responsibilities, establishment and membership requirements.”
McPherson added, “And, one of the changes was it required … that a planning commission be created by ordinance.”
According to McPherson, the city does have an ordinance in place at this time.
“It’s recommended that we update that to make it consistent with the current act,” he said. “There are some significant changes in the act and one of them being that the previous act it was a mandatory appointment for a city commission member to be on the planning commission – the new enabling act makes that a discretionary appointment.”
Boyne City Commissioner Derek Gaylord said he wants to see a copy of the original and the proposed language so he can compare the two before he signs off on anything.
Gaylord also asked if the existing board meets the requirements of the current act.
“About a year ago we reviewed the planning by-laws and looked at those specific requirements for various sectors of the community to be represented and reviewed those and made appointments to the various commission members on those, yes,” McPherson said.
McPherson said if the city commission appoints a commissioner to the planning commission, that commissioner would have full voting rights at the planning level.
“I’m not opposed to having a member of the city commission on the planning commission – I would be against having voting rights at the planning level and then again at the city commission level,” Gaylord said. “
Boyne City Mayor Ron Grunch said the commissioner could certainly recuse themselves if a conflict of interest existed.
“I think Derek has made some good points,” Grunch said, adding that he, too, wants to see a comparative of the two ordinances for further study.
Boyne City Commissioner Delbert “Gene” Towne said he is OK with the proposal.
Boyne City Commissioner Tom Neidhamer disagreed with Gaylord on the issue of the voting/non-voting member.
“I, as the liaison between both boards, am one of nine on the planning commission, and I just don’t think … any of us serving on any board is going to put the time in and the research to be on the board and then not have the voting power,” he said.
Boyne City Manager Michael Cain said this type of thing came up in the past when there was voting on both the advisory board and city commission with regards to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
“I think it would be helpful for me and for us to bring back for your reference the notes and correspondence we might have had from the city attorney at that time to help you clarify and consider any of those issues that had been raised on this,” he said. “I don’t want to say one or the other at this point. I would just rather get that information to you before you make any final determination on that.”
Gaylord made the motion to postpone the first reading of the proposed ordinance until the commission’s Feb. 14, meeting.
Neidhamer added, “I’ve been on the planning commission for 20 years and I feel I have expertise and something to offer … and I think if I lost the voting right it would take away my incentive to be on the board.”
Boyne City Commissioner Laura Sansom asked if the commissioners could simply ask the liaison if they had any conflict of interest. Cain said that is a possibility.
Neidhamer said conflict of interest issues generally only involve monetary issues.
Gaylord said, for clarification purposes, his concerns have nothing to do with Neidhamer’s ability to serve on the planning commission.
A second reading of the proposed language will occur during the Boyne City Commission’s Tuesday Feb. 28, meeting.
The motion died for lack of support.
Neidhamer made the motion that the first reading of the ordinance is complete and the second reading will go forward on Feb. 14, as scheduled.
The motion passed with Gaylord as the lone “nay” vote.