After nearly a year of absence from city business, the East Carbon City Planning and Zoning Committee is nearly ready to once again conduct meetings and begin a revision of the municipality's general plan.
The committee's hiatus started in February of 2011 as they P&Z chairperson and city council member Joyce Caviness stepped down, stating that she was "tired of the politics," which she claimed had turned the advisory body into a local scapegoat. Less than a month after Caviness' resignation, the body was forced into inactivity as two more of its members resigned from the committee. Since then, the local municipality has struggled through attempted property sales and building issues without and advisory board present to screen members for the city council.
"The major problem with not having a planning and zoning committee is that a town can lose sight of its general plan," said former council member Andy Urbanik. "We had several potential property sales going on throughout 2011 and we had problems with finding out just what the owners had planned for those pieces of land. Getting that information is the job of planning and zoning."
The body began to take shape several months ago when long-time East Carbon resident Liz Ferguson took an interest in the committee and began trying to recruit additional members and put the body back together.
"We recently sent out requests for application in the city newsletter and got back four applications," said Ferguson at the city's last council session. "At this point we have started assigning duties to our members and are ready to start conducting regular business."
Following the meeting, Ferguson and fellow member Jim Robertson were somewhat disenchanted as only two of the committee's four applicants were passed on for approval by East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine.
"I have my reasons," said LaFontaine, when asked by Ferguson why he had taken issue with two of the applicants. "These are long-time appointments and I will discuss those reasons in closed session with the council."
While it is the council that must give final approval to P&Z members, the individuals that they consider are brought forward by the mayor.
The committee as it sits now is made of Chairperson Ferguson, Jim Robertson, Earl Gunderson, Floyd Gorley, David Fryer and Karen Watkins. These six members leave the committee one short of the seven they need to have a complete body.
"We have quite a bit of work to do and I am anxious to get started," said Ferguson. "Because of that I am a little disappointed that we couldn't get all of our applicants approved."
The city will now continue to look for the seventh member which will give them their regular quorum. After that Ferguson is hopeful that the board will begin to run as advertised.
"After a year there is quite a lot to organize and revise the city's master plan is a large job but a functioning Planning and Zoning Committee is vital to any city," Ferguson concluded.