In comments responding to my Joan Rivers Resort
post, Cheryl Hentz and an anonymous responder have a disagreement over the role of the city Plan Commission. Cheryl asked:How in the world does a plan commission approve a plan for which no financing is in place? Inasmuch as there the most important "plan" seems to be missing, the words "plan commission" seem to be a contradiction in terms. Talk about putting the cart before the horse! Can we assume by their action that the plan commission is nothing more than a rubber stamp for any developer who dangles promises of the sun, moon and stars in front of the city in exchange for a huge chunk of public financing?
To which anonymous, referring to city of Oshkosh Principal Planner Darryn Burrich as an authority, replied:The Plan Commission is not a financial review commission, they are a land use review body. Whether a developer comes in with money coming out of his ears or not a penny to his name does not, and should not, matter to the plan commission. They are charged with simply reviewing the compliance with land use statutes, efficacy of development goals and enforcement of zoning standards.
Municipal Plan Commission powers are found in Wisconsin Statutes 62.23
. I think a review of those powers suggests strongly that a Plan Commission DOES have a financial review function or, at the very least, the Common Council or other governing authority can ask for a Plan Commission's recommendations on financial matters. Consider 62.23(4) on the Miscellaneous Powers of the Commission:(4) Miscellaneous powers of the commission.
The commission may make reports and recommendations relating to the plan and development of the city to public officials and agencies, public utility companies, civic, educational, professional and other organizations, and citizens. It may recommend to the mayor or council, programs for public improvements and the financing thereof
. All public officials shall, upon request, furnish to the commission, within a reasonable time, such available information as it may require for its work. The commission, its members and employees, in the performance of its functions, may enter upon any land, make examinations and surveys, and place and maintain necessary monuments and marks thereon. In general, the commission shall have such powers as may be necessary to enable it to perform its functions and promote municipal planning.
Note the part that says "It may recommend to the mayor or council, programs for public improvements and financing therof," especially the "financing therof" part. How can a Plan Commission recommend financing if it is not supposed to be concerned with financial review?
Statutes 62.23(5) say the following about "matters referred to the city plan commission":(5) Matters referred to city plan commission.
The council, or other public body or officer of the city having final authority thereon, shall refer to the city plan commission, for its consideration and report before final action is taken by the council, public body or officer, the following matters: The location and architectural design of any public building; the location of any statue or other memorial; the location, acceptance, extension, alteration, vacation, abandonment, change of use, sale, acquisition of land for or lease of land for any street, alley or other public way, park, playground, airport, area for parking vehicles, or other memorial or public grounds; the location, extension, abandonment or authorization for any public utility whether publicly or privately owned; all plats of lands in the city or within the territory over which the city is given platting jurisdiction by chapter 236; the location, character and extent or acquisition, leasing or sale of lands for public or semipublic housing, slum clearance, relief of congestion, or vacation camps for children; and the amendment or repeal of any ordinance adopted pursuant to this section. Unless such report is made within 30 days, or such longer period as may be stipulated by the common council, the council or other public body or officer, may take final action without it.
I think it is clear from this statute language that a Plan Commission may be charged with much more than "simply reviewing the compliance with land use statutes, efficacy of development goals and enforcement of zoning standards."
The anonymous person responding to Cheryl Hentz and possibly Principal Planner Burich if his views have been accurately represented, are relying on the most narrow possible interpretation of the statutes--an interpretation that of course benefits developers because it means they get to ask for City Council approval of a financial plan without any prior citizen review. The reason for the creation of Commissions, Advisory Boards, etc. was to ensure that ALL elements of development, including finances, would get at least some formal citizen review. While financial review may
not be a requirement
of a planning commission, a Common Council can certainly request that the Plan Commission make recommendations in that area.
Indeed, Statutes require that citizen members of the Plan Commission "shall be persons of recognized experience and qualification."[62.23(1)]. If financial issues--which are often the key issues in play in determining whether a development is appropriate for a city--are taken completely out of Plan Commission deliberations, then one is left wondering why the Commission needs to have citizens of "recognized experience and qualification."
Let me close by saying that there appears to be disagreement even within the Oshkosh Plan Commission about the Commission's role in addressing financial issues. In the minutes
of the January 3rd, 2006 meeting, Commission members Borsuk and Dell'Antonia have a clear disagreement about whether "good use of the land" should be the Commission's only consideration when trying to decide whether to recommend acquisition of a lot (scroll down to page 2).