Planning commission wiped clean |

Planning commission wiped clean

Planning commissioners serve at the whim of a city council or supervisorial board, and in Grass Valley, the City Council opted to terminate all its current commissioners Tuesday evening.

The shake-up was a result of a decision made by the City Council to drastically change the way commissioners are chosen. This type of change then requires that the current planning commissioners be terminated, according to state law.

The change will allow each council member to appoint his or her own representative to the planning commission. In the past, Grass Valley has left the selection to an ad-hoc committee composed of council members.

“It is unique this time because there are five council members appointing,” said Vice Mayor Mark Johnson, who led the charge for change.

The idea was sparked last month as a result of a discussion about who should fill the seat on the commission vacated by newly elected City Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout.

Councilwoman Patti Ingram said she had strong doubts about the change, citing several concerns.

“I don’t see this as the answer to the situation we are trying to resolve. We are decreasing the gene pool by enacting this,” Ingram said, saying she was also worried that the new system would make commissioners less independent from council members and that the selection process could hurt people’s feelings.

But Johnson disagreed, saying, “It is our job to reach out and engage people. I think we share that goal in mind. It is a new way of appointing. I think we will look back and be glad about it.”

So far there have been three applicants for the planning commission seats, and a few of the current commissioners have expressed interest in re-applying. All applications will be given to each of the council members who can make their individual appointments from the pool.

“I certainly would welcome anybody to contact me personally,” said Councilwoman Lisa Swarthout, a sentiment echoed by the other four council members.

Since the change is an ordinance, it requires a second reading, which will take place at the next meeting of the City Council on Jan. 25. It will then take 30 days to become law. Following that would be the interview process, and a newly constituted planning commission could be in place by the first part of March.

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