Our Call: The Planning Commission should be unincorporated

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Editorial

The St. Louis County Charter Commission is meeting weekly to decide on changes it could make to the county Charter, the constitution-like document that governs how the county operates.

While the panel is meeting, here’s our suggestion: We believe it should be a requirement that members of the county Planning Commission live in unincorporated St. Louis County.

The county Planning Commission consists of nine members from the various areas of the county. Under the current Charter, six of the commission’s nine members live in unincorporated areas, and three are from incorporated.

But that’s just as fair as if three of the nine members of the Crestwood or Sunset Hills Planning Commissions represented unincorporated St. Louis County outside their cities’ limits. In other words, it’s not fair at all.

The current members who live in Webster Groves, Eureka and Chesterfield do not have Oakville residents overseeing their cities’ zoning, and for good reason. So why should Oakville residents have Chesterfield or Webster Groves residents making their zoning decisions?

This isn’t a reflection on current commissioners who live in cities, who have served admirably and could be grandfathered in. But they have their own local zoning in their cities while unincorporated residents do not, and there could even be conflicts of interest in zoning between unincorporated and incorporated areas.

Under former County Executive Charlie Dooley, the Planning Commission was one member short, but incorporated cities got their three representatives while unincorporated areas were shortchanged, as usual.

And at one point as appointments overlapped, the panel had four incorporated and four unincorporated members, according to its website.

Of course, you could make the same argument about the County Council itself. The only members of the council who live in unincorporated St. Louis County are Presiding Officer Ernie Trakas and 3rd District Councilman Tim Fitch. The other members all live in cities, even though as council members, they primarily oversee unincorporated areas.

But the difference between the commission and the council is that the council members are elected by the voters, who chose to elect people to represent them who live in cities.

Of all the changes the Charter Commission could make, this could have the largest impact on reside