This advice was out of line

By David Lewis

Editor & Publisher

 

     The city of Pilot Point needs good people to serve on its advisory boards.

What it doesnÕt need is board members overstepping their bounds.

Earlier this month, two members of the Economic Development Corp. (EDC) appeared before the Planning and Zoning Commission and encouraged P&Z members to table proposed design standards for U.S. 377 and Washington Street. The P&Z commissioners did so.

Robert Wright passed along the EDCÕs recommendation to wait until a consultant hired by EDC makes her recommendations on design standards, which then could be incorporated in the amendment. That was good advice: Since the EDC is spending $25,000 on this consultant, P&Z might as well wait to hear what she has to say.

     But then Joyce Duesman, the EDCÕs vice president, went a step further. She encouraged P&Z to table the standards until after the May 10 City Council election. She told P&Z commissioners that the present council likely would reject the standards, implying that the new council would be more open to approving them.

     Brother.

     The design standards in question would amend the zoning ordinance to outlaw metal buildings in business areas and require masonry facades on new commercial buildings. The proposed amendment also includes several other requirements, all aimed at improving the appearance of Pilot PointÕs commercial zones over time.

     P&Z began work on the design standards last year. Part of its review was to send the proposed standards to the EDC for a recommendation. The result was a set of standards that was fairly stringent but consistent with other cities in our area.

     In October, P&Z held a public hearing on the final proposal. Nobody attended the hearing, so the P&Z voted to recommend adoption of the standards to the council. The council responded by tabling the matter and instructing the city staff to personally meet with business owners who might be affected.

     Scott Ingalls, the cityÕs development services director, presented a watered-down version of the amendment to EDC on April 1 and P&Z on April 7. Wright also reported EDCÕs recommendation during the P&Z meeting.

     Whether or not P&Z tabled the proposal because it thought it would get a better hearing from the next council wasnÕt clear. However, Duesman was out of line in encouraging the issue to be tabled for political reasons.

     Like every other city board, the EDC and P&Z both have only advisory responsibilities. The final decision on everything falls to the council. ItÕs hard work, and council members donÕt need members of their advisory boards throwing a wrench in the works for political reasons. 

     This is not to discount the role of the city boards. I disagreed with the councilÕs decision to have city staff meet personally with business owners about the proposal. Mayor Pete Hollar and I had a couple of robust discussions about it, and as is usually the case when I get into a debate with the mayor, he didnÕt budge.

     But neither did I. P&Z went through its due diligence to get the proposed standards to the council. The hearing was held a few days after The Post-Signal published a front-page story about it. Every business owner in Pilot Point could have come to the hearing and expressed an opinion on the standards. None did.

     People who serve on city boards deserve to have their input valued by the council. That doesnÕt mean the council has to agree, but it should give full weight to what its own city boards recommend. After all, why would anyone want to serve on a board if the council wonÕt listen?

     The original design standards made sense to me, and watering them down to satisfy a few people rubs me the wrong way — but not quite as much as an appointed board member injecting politics into public service.

     David Lewis is editor and publisher of The Post-Signal. He welcomes comments at editor@postsignal.com.