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Commissioner Foss unwelcome on Hamilton planning board

 

By Michael Howell

The Hamilton City Council made several appointments to various boards and committees at its last meeting on Tuesday, February 18, but one thing was clear, they did not want to accept County Commissioner Suzy Foss as a representative on the Hamilton City Planning Board. What wasn’t clearly expressed is exactly why.

Hamilton City Clerk Rose Allen told the council that the Planning Board is composed of six members, two from within the city, two from outside the city, one appointed from the City Council and one appointed from the County Commission. She said that statute appears to indicate that the County Commissioners make their own appointment.

“Our role would be to confirm that appointment, I think,” said Allen.

City Councilor Joe Petrusaitis said, “I’m wondering if there is a conflict of interest here. After the last meeting we had discussing the future, I don’t know if I can vote for this person to be on the Planning Board.”

That raised the question as to what the Council could do about the appointment since the statutes apparently give the County the power to make it.

“We can not approve it,” said Councilor Ken Bell.

And that’s what the Council did, unanimously.

It is unclear whether the seat will be left vacant or if the county commissioners will offer an alternative appointment.

The county currently has no Growth Policy or any zoning other than the various voluntary zoning districts individually established by property owners throughout the county. The City of Hamilton has a Growth Policy and zoning regulations and is currently working on a Downtown Master Plan.

The last meeting of the Hamilton City Council attended by Commissioner Foss was a discussion about the County’s proposed TIFF District which would border Hamilton on the north. Mayor Jerry Steele was critical of the County for having no Growth Policy and subsequently no zoning and yet they were trying to leave the City out of the loop in a plan to establish a TIFF District on the edge of town even though it requires zoning to have such a district. Foss said at the time that she thought the voters did not intend to stop zoning for things like an economic development district and the matter just needed to be clarified to the citizens.

Current members of the City’s Planning Board include Chip Pigman, Corey Johnson, Dan Harmon (Chair), Al Mitchell and Ron Uemura. Two seats remain open, including the County Commission seat.

Current members of the Zoning Commission include Corey Johnson, John Trangmoe, Joe Petrusaitis, Ron Uemura, and Vivian Yang (Chair).

At Tuesday’s meeting the Council also approved placing the establishment of a government study commission on the ballot for the June primary election. It was decided at last week’s Committee of the Whole to ask for a five-member commission and fund it up to $10,000. According to Clerk Rose Allen, the last study commission ten years ago consisted of five members and spent $6,500. She estimated the cost of training at $250 per commissioner including travel and lodging.

Contracts for use of the baseball fields were also agreed to by the Council with the Bitterroot Bucs American Legion Baseball and the Hamilton Babe Ruth Baseball associations. It was the same one-year contract as in the past. Terry Cole said that they had a good season last year and everything worked out well. He recommended continuing the same contract for another year.

The Council approved on second reading changes to the City Code that would adjust the license fees for transient vendors to a single $50 fee per vendor. The old code required a $100 fee from food and flower vendors and $50 from everybody else.

 

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