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December 27, 2013

 

Mayor eyes commission consolidation

Planning Commission, Historic Review Board could be combined

By STEVEN HOWE
Staff Reporter
showe@cortlandstandardnews.net

Mayor Brian Tobin plans to meet with the heads of the city Zoning Board of Appeals, Planning Commission and Historic Review Board to investigate ways to streamline the review process.
On the table for discussion would be combining two of the boards, most likely the Planning Commission and Historic Review Board, into a single board. The meeting was first discussed during the Planning Commission’s meeting on Monday.
“Consolidation was one word discussed,” Chairman Jeff Gebhardt said of his conversation with Tobin.
Gebhardt said that discussion on consolidating a board was tied, at least in part, to speeding up the process for businesses.
The call to accelerate the review and appeal process comes after a protracted, nearly two-year struggle between Pita Gourmet and the Historic Board over signage that exceeded city code regulations. The Planning Commission ended the stalemate in July, approving a variance for owner Charbel Karam to last the life of the awning that was the source of the consternation.
Tobin said that he would be meeting with the heads of the respective boards to make the board more efficient for both applicants and members.
“We’d like to improve the process for the volunteers that serve on the boards,” Tobin said.
On the topic of consolidation, Tobin said that it is something that will be considered. The Historic Board meets the second Tuesday of the month at 8 a.m.; the Planning Commission meets on the fourth Monday at 5:15 p.m.
“It’s in the discussion stage,” Tobin said. “Would it make sense to have two boards instead of three?”
Tobin also mentioned that board attendance is also a factor, something that the two boards have seen fluctuate at recent meetings. The Dec. 23 Planning Commission meeting saw five of seven members attend.
The mayor said that he understands the boards serve unique purposes.
“They each serve a vital function,” he said.
The chair of the Historic Board, Linda Kline, said that she was aware of the meeting and discussions of consolidation but had no additional comment.

 

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