December 4, 2013 by wcobserver
The Observation Post, -just another blog-
By Steve Winkler
[If you’re looking for an unbiased, objective account of the last West Fork Planning Commission meeting, look somewhere else. This account is subjective and biased. I went to the meeting, here is what I saw. Here is what I felt about what I saw.]
I did it. Well, “heckled” might be an exaggeration. Actually I spoke from my seat without going up to the podium, something that’s not so unusual at government meetings in West Fork. But if intent matters, yes, it was heckling. It happened about thirty minutes into the second hour of the most discombobulated, surreal commission meeting I have attended in my four years of reporting on West Fork government meetings.
The regular meeting started ten minutes late. First Interim Mayor Charlie Rossetti went through the standard ritual at every meeting in the conference room of trying to get the sound system working. He gave up. The new commissioner, Joan Wright needed to be sworn in but Rossetti hadn’t brought the oath so he winged it. No problem, it got done. The agenda that Wes Eckles received from commission chair Mike Landa was too small to be readable. Oh well. No copy was available at the meeting but I managed to get a copy from the city clerk a few days later.
Commission chair Mike Landa began by saying there was a lot split to deal with, followed by a brief case search for the “big packet,” then came the oh-gosh- statement, “Left it on my desk.” No problem for Landa, “Butch approved it, just need to give it our blessing.” Some members wondered if it could be done by email. The agenda item for consideration for a lot split for the Reed Family didn’t happen.
Landa wasn’t interested in that, anyway. He had an announcement to make.
His offer on a house in Fayetteville was accepted and he would close soon. He would be moving out of the city so the commission would need to get a new chair and vice chair. This item wasn’t on the agenda.
Mr. Landa wants to talk about signage although there are no sign issues before the commission. He revisits the Harps sign issue which came up several months ago and was acted on by the commission. Landa wonders about “renting” city property for private signs. Jeff Hawkins from the Regional Planning office who frequents the commission meetings to offer guidance and advice, informed Landa that such an idea is unheard of. Landa wanted to charge Harps rent for their sign. Commissioner Bill Griffith reminded him that such an action would be breaking an agreement already in place with Harps. A signage discussion insued with no direction or outcome.
Landa moves on to his proposal for “amnesty” for businesses operating without a city business license. “Like for illegal immigrants,” he said. No examples of these infractions were given. He was reminded that code enforcement was the responsibility of the mayor and the enforcing is done by the police department. He pushed the issue suggesting it would be a good source of revenue.
There was a citizen at the meeting with a legitimate concern about signage. Teresa Griffith spoke saying she had gone to the front office with her concerns about a sign she wants to erect on her property for an art studio. She said she was told she would be on the agenda so had brought detailed information and images of her project. She was prepared. Confusion erupted. No one seemed to know anything. There were questions about conditional use, zoning and sign regulations. There was a flurry of random discussion by Landa, Hawkins, Griffith and a few others. I couldn’t tell if a determination was made about anything. Perhaps she will be on the next agenda.
Next. Cell towers. I turned to Interim Mayor Rossetti and asked why we were talking about cell towers. He pointed at Landa indicating I should ask him, so I did.
Me, “Why are we talking about cell towers?”
Landa, “It’s on the agenda.”
Me, “I don’t have one.”
Me, “Is there any business before the commission involving cell towers?”
The discussion moved back to signs on city right of way. Then back to cell towers, this time portable ones. Fifteen minutes of cell towers.
It became clear that Mr. Landa relished his performance before a captive audience. A dozen people had left the comfort of their homes to volunteer their time on a commission or appear before it with legitimate concerns about doing the right thing regarding the sign ordinance. What they were getting was an unstructured meeting and cell tower sales pitch by the towns leading braggadocio.
When he uttered, “I build cell towers,” I couldn’t help responding, “Good for you,” adding, “tell us again, when you are moving to Fayetteville?’
He commented I was being disruptive. I said I can fix that and made for the exit.
He said, “Glad you could find the door.”
I think there are a lot of folks in town glad he found the door, also.