Parker council votes to eliminate planning commission

Updated: Jan 7

PARKER – The Parker City Council in a split vote approved an ordinance that abolished the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and Zoning Appeals Board during a special session on Thursday, Dec. 16.

The council approved the measure on a two to one vote. The meeting began without a quorum of council members present, and an additional council member, Jerry Sommers, was called in from being in quarantine. Sommers and Councilwoman Ashley Balthazor, voted for the ordinance and Councilman Gary Earley voted against it.

Ordinance No. 478 dissolves the Parker Planning and Zoning Commission and Zoning Appeals Board, which seats have been unfilled for a number of years.

The city council has been handling all duties of the commission with all zoning questions and decisions being decided by the city council. With passage of the ordinance, the city council will assume the duties of both the Planning and Zoning Commission and Zoning Appeals Board.

Parker City Clerk Cherry Buckley said that the zoning committee had not been active for several years and when issues came up, the council members had to make the decisions. They decided to pass an ordinance giving them the legal authority.

In a later phone call, Earley said that he was concerned that doing away with the planning commission would allow businesses that were incompatible with housing into the residential areas.

Earley said that he did not understand the need for the rush on getting this approved even to the point of pulling a third council member who was in quarantine to the meeting.

He said that when he talked with the mayor before the meeting about the reason for this, the mayor kept referring him to the conflict of interest section of the new ordinance.

In a phone call, former mayor Wayne Burk said that it was hard to get members for the planning commission when he was mayor. His last term ended in 2019.

Burk, a member of the planning board before becoming mayor, said the main concerns at that time were designating a specific area in Parker for single-wide mobile homes and regulating the number of animals people have, including farm animals, through conditional-use permits.

The city at one time had an extra-territorial agreement with Linn County that allowed the city’s planning commission to have input into county development within three miles of city limits. However, that agreement was contingent on at least two of the city’s planning commission members being residents within that three mile radius.

Both having the city council being the planning commission and not having anyone on that commission from outside city limits likely voids the agreement with the county.

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