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Bloomington tweaks Planning Commission term limits

  • Article by: Mary Jane Smetanka
  • Star Tribune
  • February 4, 2014 - 3:34 PM

Worried about having too many inexperienced members on its Planning Commission, Bloomington has tweaked term limits to allow a couple of veteran members to serve two more years.

The seven-member Planning Commission, which helps shape development projects as they make their way to the City Council, has two vacancies and would have lost its two most experienced members if the rules hadn’t been changed. Commission members serve for six years; no other members have been on the commission for more than two years.

With major development issues expected before the commission soon, the move to make sure the group was not dominated by rookies made sense, said Glen Markegard, planning division manager for the city.

The change is a technical one, linked to the 2010 merger of a now-defunct transportation commission with the Planning Commission. Until now, city rules counted years served on the now-gone commission as part of the Planning Commission term, even though Craig Nordstrom and Roger Willette didn’t join the planning group until 2010. Nordstrom is now the Planning Commission chair.

“It all goes back to that very rare scenario of merging two commissions and how we count years of service on prior commissions,” Markegard said.

In Bloomington, Planning Commission members are appointed by the City Council. The group plays a bigger role in shaping the city than any other group but the council, and historically has acted as a sort of farm team for future City Council members.

At meetings in January, council members brought up their concerns about lack of experience on the commission. One of them was Jack Baloga, who made the leap from commission to council in 2012.

“If we don’t do this, there will be so many new people,” he said. “It’s not that they’re not capable of making choices, but the experience level … for the number of major decisions that will come before that body in the next six months or so … is somewhat worrisome.”

Former commission member Jon Oleson, who was elected to the council last fall, said the commission discussed the issue in December and concurred that the change would be a good one.

Issues related to the implementation of plans for the Penn American district at Interstates 494 and 35W, plans for the South Loop district near the Mall of America and continued zoning ordinances updates are likely to be on the commission agenda in the near future, Markegard said.

The council approved the policy change on terms by a 7-0 vote.

Also approved was moving the expiration date of Planning Commission terms from Dec. 31 to June 30. Markegard said that after an election, the new council usually wants to make commission appointments. But because new councils don’t take office until Jan. 1 and need time to get organized, commission members sometimes aren’t named until February or March.

“This will get people into place quicker,” he said.

The council was expected to fill the two vacancies on the Planning Commission this week.

 

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380

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