Four new members have been appointed in the last several weeks to the five-member volunteer board, leaving only Chairman Kirt Kraft remaining from last year’s edition. New members were sworn in during last week’s meeting of the Villa Rica City Council.
Planning and Zoning commissioners are appointed by the City Council to advise on zoning issues.
The commission’s mission statement is to assist the public and to direct and encourage quality community development in accordance with adopted policies, codes and laws which enhance the city, protect the environment and make the city a better place to live.
According to the city of Villa Rica website, this is accomplished by providing quality and timely customer assistance and information, implementing the city’s comprehensive plan, reviewing and updating land development codes, preparing innovative plans to direct the city’s future and through efficient development review processes.
The board cannot pass agenda items on its own, but merely advises the City Council.
In 2012, the council consisted of Kraft, Robert Francis, Bakari Turner, John Hannabach and Mike Williamson.
Francis’ term ended around the turn of the year and Willie Marchman was appointed in his place, and the other new members were appointed during the council’s first meeting of 2013 on Feb 5. The new members are Leslie McPherson, John Mount and Isaac Robinson, with Kraft remaining on board.
Two of the outgoing members, Hannabach and Williamson, spoke during public comment at the meeting and expressed that they were unhappy at how their terms on the board ended. They were informed the morning of the meeting via phone call, and said they did not know the reason their terms expired.
Villa Rica Mayor J. Collins responded to their statements, saying he wished they had been informed in another manner.
“I know there were former Planning and Zoning commissioners upset about not being reappointed and those are council appointments that are done on an annual basis,” Collins said. “I regret the way some were informed that they were no longer on board. I think a phone call or letter stating to them that they are no longer on the board would be appropriate. I can assure members of different authorities that before we just remove someone we will be more diligent. We will do a better job.”
Williamson and Hannabach said they weren’t sure if the council could legally end their terms without holding a council meeting or without reason.
Ward 4 Councilman Patrick Henrickson said the council can end a commissioner’s term at any time and can appoint a new commissioner from any district in the city. He said the reappointments were because some commissioners had refused training.
“The council has rules for volunteers on the board,” Henrickson said. “They have to complete four and a half hours of training in their first year. We decided we wanted people with training to make the best decisions. This person refused to take the training and so we found someone else to do the job.”
According to Henrickson, the commissioners refused to undergo training in Marietta.
“There were courses offered in Marietta, which is pretty local,” said Henrickson. “They were saying they won’t take the classes, that it’s a waste of their time. ... The cost was paid for by the city — we have money specifically for that in the budget to pay for those classes.”
Hannabach said he was only refusing to go out of town for training and was under the impression that local training would be provided at a later date.
“We refused to attend the training session because we felt what they were presenting wasn’t worth the money to send us,” Hannabach said. “There was no indication it would be the end of our term.”
Henrickson did thank the outgoing volunteers for their service, and said he looks forward to working with the new commission.
“It’s difficult to find volunteers and we appreciate those who are willing to serve,” he said. “We appreciate people who will give time and serve. There is no pay, but there are some rules that we ask and that’s all that’s required.”
The next Villa Rica City Council meeting will be Tuesday, March 5, at 5 p.m.