Last week Tuesday was a history-making City Council meeting. With a number of controversial items on the agenda ranging from the 400 Block to a large lawsuit settlement to an emotionally debated rezoning request to changing the city’s garbage hauler, it is no wonder that those of us who stuck around for the entire meeting didn’t get home until after 11 PM.
Last night, I attended the Plan Commission meeting over at Wausau City Hall. A person who owns a property across the street from one of my rental properties is asking for a conditional use and because I think that the proposed use of the property is a good one, I thought I would attend the hearing for the zoning request and testify in favor of granting my neighbor the conditional use they are looking for.
As always, I got to City Hall a little early and had a chance to BS a little bit with others that were there early as well, including the Mayor. Comments about the marathon meeting last week were a popular topic of discussion.
However, another topic of discussion was the fact that three members of the Plan Commission had already contacted City Hall to let them know that for one reason or another, they were not going to be able to attend the meeting. The Plan Commission in Wausau consists of 7 members, and over half of them need to be present for there to be a quorum. (For those not familiar with that term, a quorum is the minimum number of members needed for a body to meet and conduct business, so in the case of the Plan Commission, if they don’t have 4 members present, they can’t have a meeting.)
Commission members Tipple, Gehin and Radtke were present. Commission members Gale, Valitchka and Sayles had contacted City Hall ahead of time to inform the Commission of their inability to be at the meeting. The 7th member, Forrest, had not contacted City Hall. The Commission also emailed him and called him trying to confirm if he would be there or not, but they were unable to reach him. At about 5:40 (nearly a half hour after the scheduled start time of the meeting), the Mayor (as Commission Chair) officially cancelled the meeting for lack of quorum.
Some people may question why, if you volunteered to serve on a committee, you wouldn’t be there for the meetings. Afterall, they are always on the same day and at the same time. Well, I am sure they try to make every meeting but I also personally know that life happens. People who choose to serve on committees such as the Plan Commission tend to be very active in the community, serving on many other boards and committees as well. Also, most (if not all) of the Commission members have full time jobs and there are times that you just cannot get away. I have not checked the minutes, but I would guess that if I did, the various commission members probably attend almost every single meeting and missing one is a rare occurrence. It was just bad luck that these conflicts happened for 4 of the members all in the same meeting.
There was discussion as to the last time a Plan Commission meeting had to be cancelled for lack of quorum. It hadn’t happened in Mayor Tipple’s memory. City Planner Joe Pribanich’s memory of these meetings probably went back the farthest and based on his memory, it has been at least 20 years since something like this had happened.
There were a total of 9 items on the agenda (okay, 10 items but the Mayor had already removed one item). Five of those items were public hearings on various zoning and conditional use requests. All of those hearings I am sure were very important to those asking for the zoning change. Based on discussion, two of the items actually have a property sale hanging on the Commission’s decision and a delay in the decision could jeopardize the sale.
The Commission passed around a note pad for everyone there to write down their name and address. They are hoping that they can have the meeting next week. They would then, in addition to posting the notice like they normally do, also send a new meeting notice to everyone who had attended. If the meeting is only delayed one week, there will be no change in the date that the City Council looks at these items.
However, the Commission had to do some research to determine if the law allowed such a common sense approach. Because 5 of the items were public hearings, there is a certain requirement for giving notice of a hearing. Because the Commission had names of everyone there for all of the various hearings, would it be okay to just move the meeting a week? Or, does the law require that a new hearing date be set with new official hearing notices. The type of official notice needed for a hearing would mean a delay of 3-4 weeks. Those of us who attended last evening should learn today how quickly the Plan Commission can reconvene on these issues.
I just found it ironic that exactly one week after one of the longest and most controversial city meetings that I ever attended, my next city meeting… wasn’t.
NOTE: Dr Rent will be making a LIVE APPEARANCE after Thursday’s Radio Show. There is a Citizen Wausau get-together at Marlarkeys starting at 5:30 PM this coming Thursday (tomorrow). My radio show runs from 5 PM to 6 PM on 93.3 FM. (Feel free to tune in while you are heading to Marlarkeys.) I normally liking being on time if not early to things but the Radio Show does take priority. But, after I get off the air, I will head over to join the rest of the Citizen Wausau contingent. (Dr Rent autographs will be available for a $5 donation to the 400 Block.)