2014-08-30 / Letters

City Should Accept Recommendation and Move On

To the Editor:

The City Council meeting held Wednesday, August 20, was as interesting for the issues discussed as it was for the method of governance.

Having spent untold hours since early April on the Silver Birch’s application for a change to the Zoning Ordinance, the Planning Commission voted 6 to 2 against making the change. After attending two of the Planning Commission’s meetings, I was left with the clear impression the commission was acting with professionalism in its strong desire to make a decision purely on the basis of whether the change fit within the city’s master plan.

It is difficult to understand why the mayor would need to appoint a special committee to review the issue again. This action seems to illustrate a real disregard for the Planning Commission’s knowledge of the master plan and its thoughtful review. What more does the City Council need to understand? One wonders if the council members have been reading the Planning Commission’s minutes at all. It was interesting to watch how quickly the council moved to a unanimous vote to approve the pre-selected committee with no discussion.

In Vermont, where I was the chairman of our town’s Planning Commission for seven years, after presenting a similar report to our Select Board (which performs the same duties there that the City Council does here), we explained the issues, pointed out where a request did or did not conform to our town plan, and the Select Board would then immediately vote on the request based on our reasoning. I can’t remember one instance where the Select Board put the issue out to a second committee for another recommendation. They relied on and trusted our knowledge of the town plan and our ability to make thoughtful decisions.

What was even more strange was to see yet another amendment to the Silver Birch’s request listed on the agenda for discussion before members of the Planning Commission had even received a copy of the amendment. Why? The city’s bylaws require a Planning Commission review and vote before such a request is sent to the City Council. Everyone on Mackinac knows we don’t put the cart before the horse.

In my view, the City Council should accept the Planning Commission’s recommendation and move on to other important matters needing its attention.

Toby Murray

Mackinac Island

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