Planning & Zoning board shuffling, absences draw attention of council

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cape Girardeau City Hall has found itself paying a lot of attention to Planning and Zoning Commission appointments in recent weeks.

At Monday's meeting, council members voted to disregard the wishes of chairman Skip Smallwood who asked that former commissioner Cliff Crosnoe be appointed. Instead, council chose to appoint Trae Bertrand, a 27-year-old lawyer.

"I'm lost for words. I don't know what's going on," Smallwood said.

In the 5 p.m. study session, Smallwood said he was stepping outside his normal routine to voice support for Crosnoe.

"I usually don't put myself on the line like that, but I think he provides a lot of value," he said.

But the council wanted a change.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said it's important to remember appointments like this are strictly the decision of the city council. Change, he said, isn't meant as a slight to anyone.

Making a change

"It doesn't mean board members aren't solid or aren't doing a good job, it just means council wanted to make a change," he said.

Bertrand brings youth and freshness to the commission, said Knudtson.

Crosnoe was passed over once before -- in October when his four-year term expired. His replacement, Kevin Govero, has since resigned from the commission citing scheduling conflicts.

"No one has ever explained to me why Cliff wasn't reappointed in the first place," said Smallwood.

Crosnoe declined to comment Monday night.

Members of the city council also pondered Monday just how many absences to allow commissioners before removing them.

"We've fully admitted over the years, we don't have a perfect formula for that," said Knudtson.

The issue has come to the fore after Kathy Swan was automatically removed, then reappointed to her post as a Planning and Zoning commissioner.

Swan missed four board meetings since being appointed in late last year, and city ordinances stipulate four absences over that time demand an automatic removal.

Some on the council believed the method to be a fair one.

"I think the way it stands is fair-minded and reasonable," said Councilwoman Debra Tracy. "You can't do business if people aren't there and if people are over-committed then that has to be accounted for."

Knudtson was in favor of keeping the present ordinance in place, suggesting that council's ability to reappoint members gives them adequate oversight. He is not in favor of changing the ordinance to provide for extenuating circumstances as some council members suggested.

"That might become something that is challenged more often," Knudtson said.

Board kept busy

He added that Swan's lackluster attendance record never prevented the 11-member board from having a quorum or conducting business.

Each council member took home a copy of the ordinance Monday with encouragement from Knudtson to read it since "there is nothing here that is etched in stone."

335-6611, extension 245

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