Planning board member feeling the heat |

Planning board member feeling the heat

City leaders tonight could boot Grass Valley Planning Commissioner Ralph Silberstein, who widely is viewed as more of a conservationist than supportive of development and business interests.

Silberstein said Monday he was given little reason why he could be removed.

Councilwoman Jan Arbuckle, who appointed him, recently asked Silberstein to resign, and he balked, Silberstein said. She told him he was “too critical of city staff” and didn’t communicate well with her, he said. Beyond that, Arbuckle offered little explanation, he added.

Arbuckle could not be reached for comment Monday.

“A lot of contractors probably would be glad to see me removed from this position, because I’m very demanding of them,” Silberstein said. “I’m not surprised I’m being removed, because there are a lot of times that I’m an outsider on the votes.”

“Ralph Silberstein’s service on the Planning Commission,” with a recommendation for “discussion and possible action,” is on tonight’s agenda for the Grass Valley City Council meeting, starting 7 p.m. at City Hall, 125 East Main St.

Former Councilman Dean Williams appointed Silberstein in 2005 after council members dumped Terry Lamphier. Williams and Silberstein voted similarly on the issues before their respective panels.

Silberstein frequently has favored the inclusion of trail projects, strictly following city building guidelines and preserving open space.

In December, Williams resigned, and the remaining city council members appointed Arbuckle to the council in February.

Arbuckle had a chance to offer a different choice for the commission at that time. But she declined, suggesting Silberstein continue his tenure.

In an April interview, Arbuckle described her point of view in the conservation-versus-development continuum as middle-of-the-road.

“I look at everything on a case-by-case basis,” she said then.

It was unclear when Arbuckle’s apparent concerns with her appointee arose. Recently, Silberstein offered to meet with Arbuckle every two weeks or discuss planning commission concerns on the phone, but that didn’t sway her, Silberstein said.

To Planning Commission Chairwoman Eleanor Kenitzer, Arbuckle’s earlier decision to keep Silberstein probably wasn’t about political philosophy.

“In the beginning, Jan was new,” Kenitzer said. “She reappointed him because he was” already on the commission.

But Kenitzer added she didn’t know what Arbuckle’s concerns are with Silberstein.

“I certainly wish Ralph well,” Kenitzer said. “He’s taken this position very seriously.”

Nevertheless, Silberstein’s possible departure shouldn’t come as a shock, Kenitzer added.

“Like it or not, we all serve at the pleasure of the city council,” Kenitzer said.

Silberstein agreed his possible departure from the commission always was a possibility.

“If a city council member becomes unhappy, that person can remove a commissioner without justification,” Silberstein said.

Whatever happens, Silberstein said, he’s enjoyed the challenge of serving on the planning commission.


To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail or call 477-4234.

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