Tallmadge Charter Review Commission considers board alternates, changes to Heritage Commission

Krista S. Kano
Akron Beacon Journal
The Tallmadge Charter Review Commission continues to discuss potential changes to the city's governing document. On March 8, they reviewed the boards and commissions established in the charter.

The Tallmadge Charter Review Commission is in favor of allowing the mayor to appoint alternate members to the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and Heritage Commission but is waiting until the next meeting on March 22 to iron out the details. 

The proposed change is expected to streamline the process for applicants asking for the boards' approval. 

On March 8, the commission reviewed Articles 10-14 that deal with the city's boards and commissions, and focused predominantly on the establishment of alternates for entities dealing with the city's zoning code.

More:Tallmadge Charter Commission reviews vacancies, qualifications

As per the charter, Planning and Zoning, Zoning Appeals and Heritage Commission each have five members appointed by the mayor and confirmed by council.

When a member or members are absent, an applicant may have to receive unanimous support from all present members in order to receive approval, or else return for the following meeting, when hopefully more members are present.

In other situations, a member is present, but unable to vote due to a conflict of interest. As these entities only meet once a month, missing or abstaining members may significantly delay the applicant's project. 

"It can take two to three months, and if we don't have enough members, you may have a situation that really hurts the applicant long term if they have to wait a construction season," Mayor David Kline said. 

Planning and Zoning Director Helene Hussing agreed, saying, "It would be very nice to have an alternate commission member in fairness to the applicants so they have a full board making that decision."

More:Charter Review Commission addresses mayoral vacancies

Several commission members said they were in favor of allowing the mayor to appoint an alternate, but questioned how an alternate member would function. 

Law Director and Commission Chair Megan Raber asked if it would be difficult to find someone willing to attend meetings knowing that they may never get to vote, and member Kathryn Kuzior-Lindhe asked if the "alternate" could rotate meeting to meeting, so that all members would get a chance to vote. 

"I think an alternate is the way to go.  You may have an alternate who gets a little bit upset about not getting to vote, but they're going to know that going in," member Robert Higham said. "I can imagine if you went in, you made your case of why you should be able to build and be told 'We'll have to see you next month and hopefully we have enough members at that meeting.' I think removing that type of frustration from the community is more important and I think the alternate is an excellent idea."

Raber said she would draft some potential language to be discussed more fully at the next charter review meeting. 

The Charter Review Commission also discussed several changes to the Heritage Commission, which currently reviews buildings in the Design Control District around Tallmadge Circle and any designated historical structures. 

Because the city is in the process of a massive revision of its zoning code, there may soon be additional overlay districts with certain design aesthetics, and Raber said that the Charter Review Commission could make changes in anticipation of the zoning code rewrite.

"We'd like the commission to look at changing the name to the Architectural Review Board and allow them to oversee the design criteria for any overlay district," Raber said. "Even in the event that proposed changes would not get adopted, it doesn't do any harm. This makes sense for where we're headed." 

Raber also presented a change in membership criteria so that three members are architects, landscape architects, engineers, building designers or other design professionals and two members are city residents. The current Heritage Commission does meet those proposed requirements. 

Member Helen Fire raised concerns that potentially three professionals, who do not necessarily have to live in Tallmadge, would be able to outvote the two Tallmadge residents, which also concerned member Meghan Thompson. Raber said she would draft language so that at least three members are Tallmadge residents.

Raber will present potential changes to the charter language and the proposed ballot language at the next meeting and the Charter Review Commission will vote whether to approve it.

More:Tallmadge Charter Review Commission reconvenes

Commission-approved changes would be submitted to city council at the end of the review process, and if council approves it, would then be submitted to the board of elections and secretary of state for their approval to appear on the Nov. 2, 2021 ballot.

The next meeting of the Charter Review Commission starts at 7 p.m. on March 22 and can be viewed live on the city's YouTube channel.

The commission will be discussing the final articles of the charter, 15 and 17-19, dealing with nominations and elections; initiative, referendum and recall; charter review; and transition provisions. 

People can also register to join the Zoom call through the city's calendar at https://tallmadge-ohio.org/calendar.aspx.

Reporter Krista S. Kano can be reached at 330-541-9416, kkano@thebeaconjournal.com or on Twitter @KristaKanoABJ.