Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
Larry Powell, business and economic development director, told Gardner’s planning commission members that in his opinion they treated the public with respect during a recent public hearing – contrary to assertions by several city council members.
Powell said in a written statement he read a meeting March 26 that city staff generally asks that any concerns council members may have with any committee, commission or board are to be addressed to the city administrator and then brought to the attention of the appropriate staff of board.
“All meetings of the governing bodies and commissions are open to the public and because of this they are not generally the best forums to examine issues or differences of opinion,” he said.
“This does not mean that the council will be silent on items brought to them by the public or that they have observed directly in person or when viewing the live streaming broadcast.”
During the March 18 city council meeting, several council members expressed concerns about how some planning commission members treated members of the public during a public hearing Feb. 26. The meeting concerned a mixed use development at Waverly and Santa Fe.
Randy Gregorcyck, council member, said there was need to conduct training on etiquette and civility for planning commissioners, a position that was echoed by council vice president Rich Melton who said “there are folks over there that don’t know their roles.”
Lee Moore, council president, said he did not like the behavior of some of the planning commission members during the meeting. “There’s no reason to treat a member of public that way,” Moore said March 18.
In his statement March 26, Powell said that it is his opinion, and that of city staff, that the planning commission members treated the public with respect.
“In my opinion and that of the staff, the planning commission did treat the public with respect, and you thanked them for attending and for presenting their issues and concerns in an orderly manner before the commission,” he said.
Powell thanked the planning commissioners for their service to the city.
“Thank you for serving on the planning commission. You are an unpaid appointed body of individuals who have volunteered to serve the community and public at a personal sacrifice of your time and peace of mind,” he said.
Powell said that some planning commission members have also raised concerns on comments reported in the press.
“If there is a statement in the paper that is not accurate or if additional information is needed to clarify a city position, it is the responsibility of the Public Information Officer to answer or contact the paper for corrections to be posted. We do not issue corrections from the podium,” he said.
He told the commissioners that during a public hearing their questions should be for clarification or for additional information.
“Once an answer is received no matter how short it is, whither you believe the answer or not, accept it; we do not editorialize or expound our disbelief,” he said.
He said that it was appropriate for commissioners to make sure they have the answer to the question from the applicant or staff.
“A word of caution – when asking our questions please make sure that the person answering the question is completely done before starting your next question or from interrupting the answer,” he advised.
He said it is the job of the planning commission members to review staff reports and recommendations and balance that information against the request of the applicant.
“You make a decision on the facts that are presented,” he said.
He told the commission members that all applications are evaluated according to review criteria contained in the land development code.
“When a plan comes to you for a decision, you can be assured that the plan either meets code requirements, or is approvable with allowable deviations or conditions of approval. Otherwise staff will recommend denial,” he said.