20 Mar At Meeting on March 19, Delta County Commissioners Respond to Community Outcry With Statement that PC Bylaws Don’t Apply to Them
During Constituent Time at their regularly scheduled meeting today, the Commissioners heard passionate comments from community members in regards to their decision not to reappoint Jen Sanborn as the Upper North Fork’s representative on the Planning Commission. This decision effectively silenced the Upper North Fork, eliminating the one voting member of the Planning Commission representing this crucial area.
During this comment period, Jen Sanborn stated that much of the uproar around this decision could have been avoided with some old fashioned plain speaking. According to Sanborn, there was no public notice that such a decision would be made at the Commissioners’ meeting, she herself was not notified in any way, and the whole situation seemed sneaky, underhanded, political, and disrespectful to herself and the residents of the Upper North Fork.
Several other community members made impassioned remarks in support of Jen Sanborn and the Upper North Fork. Among them was JoAnn Kalenak, who made the point that this action was undertaken in violation of State Sunshine laws, because the decision was not properly noticed. This is another example in a long line of actions by the County that seemed designed to keep the public unaware and uninformed on vital issues. CHC Executive Director Natasha Léger walked the Commissioners through a series of maps with Planning Commission makeup prior to the March 5 decision and following the March 5 decision, and made it clear that this decision was made in violation of the Planning Commission’s bylaws which require that each of the Planning Areas be represented on the Planning Commission. She also gave the Commissioners two potential ways to resolve the issue, based on the Planning Commission Bylaws that the Commissioners revised on July 3, 2018, which allow for continued Upper North Fork Representation and equalizing representation across the Commissioners’ Districts. Both essentially revolve around reappointing Jen Sanborn or another Upper North Fork Representative (there were several applicants for the position the Commissioners advertised in December 2017) and granting associate commissioner status to another Surface Creek Representative.
CHC was also very clear to state the bylaws violations and the solutions proposed are not meant as personal attacks on the Planning Commission members. This is about governance, the Commissioners following the rules they approved themselves, and ensuring that the public and businesses who interact with the Planning Commission have confidence, predictability, and certainty that promises made by the County Commissioners and Planning Commissioners with respect to a Master Plan, land-use planning, and quasi-judicial procedures cannot be changed on a whim. Most importantly, the concerns of the Upper North Fork Valley are different from the rest of the County and the other planning areas. This is why planning areas were developed in the beginning.
Following these public comments, the Commissioners each made statements. Commissioner Atchley started with a belated thank you to Jen Sanborn for her work, before going into a brief history of how we got to this point. This decision came out of the Commissioners’ decision to rearrange the Planning Commission to prioritize representation of the Commissioners’ districts over the planning areas. Commissioner Atchley does not believe this decision violated the Planning Commission’s bylaws because he does not believe the County Commissioners are bound by the Planning Commission’s bylaws. Commissioner Atchley said the County is only bound by state statutes that let the Commissioners decide the makeup of the Planning Commission.
Commissioner Suppes reiterated that he believes representation of the Commissioner’s Districts is the only logical way to determine representation on the Planning Commission. The districts are based on the most recent census and reflect countywide population distribution. He also stated that this decision has been the subject of discussion in at least six public meetings and joint Planning Commission work sessions.
Commissioner Roeber added that the County was not aware that Jen Sanborn would be the first member of the Planning Commission to be up for reappointment. He stated that the Master Plan revision was almost complete, and that the he did not feel that the Upper North Fork would suffer any harm during the remainder of the process. He feels that the remaining Planning Commission members from Crawford and Leroux Creek could adequately represent the Upper North Fork as well.
These statements (and the Commissioners’ unwillingness to engage with the public) beg myriad questions about the county’s decision-making processes.
Click the links below to email the Commissioners and request a special meeting to discuss how the they came to their conclusion that district representation was more important than planning area representation, how the “at-large” positions were treated, and how the Commissioners plan on assuring communities that their representation on the Planning Commission will not be revoked on a whim.
It is the duty of the County Commissioners to represent their constituents, and it is our duty as constituents to demand answers of our representatives.