Board considers changes to panel’s composition

Board weighs appointing alderman to planning panel


By Erin Achenbach, News Editor

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen recently discussed making changes to the composition of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission with the addition of an elected official as either a voting member or non-voting member of the panel. 

Following committee and commission appointments at the Nov. 9 Board of Aldermen meeting, Ward 3 Alderman Randy Epperson proposed changing the composition of the Planning and Zoning Commission to allow for the addition of an alderman. The commission is currently comprised of nine resident members. 

“I understand the desire of planning and zoning is to be a good representation of all four wards, but aldermen also reside in all four wards. … I would like to … have an alderman sit on that Planning and Zoning Committee … I think that it’s important to have Board of Aldermen representation on all of our committees if possible,” Epperson said. 

The Sunset Hills Planning and Zoning Commission consists of two members from each ward and two “at large” members. Terms are three years and all members are appointed by the mayor with aldermanic approval. 

Neighboring city Crestwood has an aldermanic representative on its planning panel, and state statute allows for both the mayor and aldermen to be appointed to and have voting powers on a planning commission.  

At the December board meeting, aldermen directed city staff to conduct an anonymous survey among the members of the Planning and Zoning Commission to collect their thoughts on having an aldermanic representative on the commission. According to a memo from City Administrator Brittany Gillett, eight of the nine members responded, with most against an alderman having any voting power as a member of the planning commission. 

One member stated they were in favor of having an alderman serve on the commission with voting powers, while five members said they were not in favor of an aldermanic member of the commission, but if they were a member, the commission would prefer the alderman to be a non-voting member. One commission member stated they were in favor of an alderman serving on the commission only as a non-voting liaison, while one member was entirely opposed to any aldermanic representation on the Planning and Zoning Commission. 

“Has it been a problem in the past … to find people who are willing to serve on (Planning and Zoning),” Ward 3 Alderman Fred Daues questioned during discussion on the proposal at the Jan. 11 meeting. “If there was a problem with finding people to serve, I could see a rationale for an alderman or mayor to be a voting member of that committee because we lack quorums, we lack critical mass. I’m hearing that we don’t … I think we’ve got enough committees and meetings to deal with. … I can’t see a ready rationale for changing.” 

Daues added that aldermen at any time could sit in on planning commission meetings since they are public, so he also didn’t see the need for an aldermanic liaison. 

Epperson said that taking into consideration the information from the anonymous survey, he didn’t see a need to move forward with his original motion. 

“The spirit of that whole inquiry about putting a member of the board on the (Planning and Zoning Commission) was spurred by a resident’s inquiry,” Epperson said. “It was overwhelmingly clear that they (Planning and Zoning Commission) don’t want that. With that information, I would withdraw the whole inquiry about opening up a seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission for an alderman.”