NB Council gives staff more time for planning commission

When the North Branch City Council suspended the city’s planning commission by a 4-1 vote at the council’s Jan. 3 meeting, the council decided 120 days was enough time to decide what should be done with the commission.
New City Administrator Renae Fry asked the council at its April 11 meeting for more time.
“The actual resolution itself amending the ordinance did not establish any sort of a deadline or timeline, but I at least wanted to make you aware that staff has been moving forward on this topic,” she said. “You will see in future work sessions that we will be bringing a model for your (the council’s) review and consideration. … I just wanted to make the council aware that council or staff saw that there was a timeline contemplated, and we’re working towards that timeline, but it will take longer than what was at least discussed from the council.”
Mayor Kirsten Hagen-Kennedy then asked Fry what she needed of the council. Fry said she was making the council aware of the progress and asked the mayor and council if they wanted staff to move at a quicker pace.
“We would like you to be methodical and comprehensive,” Hagen-Kennedy said, with the council members agreeing.
Council Member Jim Swenson asked Fry if it would be too soon to find interested applicants for the planning commission.
“I believe it would be premature to solicit applicants at this time because part of the comprehensive plan that we would present to council would include an application process, an application form and then we would have a scope of duties that would be consistent with the model you adopt,” Fry said.
The council, by consensus, agreed to give city staff more time to work on the planning commission model.
Following the suspension of the commission, this information was posted on the city’s website in January as to the reasoning for the suspension:
“The Planning Commission (was) abolished effective Jan. 3, 2017. The City Council decided to handle planning issues directly for a period of up to 120 days while they review the city’s planning process. During the next several months council will be working with staff to reorganize the process and guidelines to ensure the city provides a professional approach for the future of the city.”
Also at the meeting, the council granted Fry’s request, 4-0 (Council Member Kathy Blomquist was absent for the meeting) for an additional 180 days for staff to work on the city’s comprehensive plan, the document that deals with policy in terms of transportation, utilities, land use and housing. The council had also suspended updates to the comprehensive plan for 120 days at the Jan. 3 meeting.
“We don’t want to hurry it,” Council Member Robert Canada said. “I would almost say 180 days is not enough, but 180 days is what we’ll go with.”

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