HIGHLIGHTS, MARCH 19, 2017 COMMISSIONER MEETING — Commissioner transparency questioned in PC appointment uproar

With standing room only, 37 residents attended Monday’s County Commissioner meeting to ask Commissioners to reconsider their decision not to renew the appointment of Jen Sanborn as the Upper North Fork representative to the Delta County Planning Commission (PC), a decision that eliminated the Paonia seat.

Only six citizens were permitted to speak during constituent time even though many others asked for the opportunity. Commissioner Atchley cited time constraints despite taking a 40-minute recess later in the morning between two other agenda items.

Citizen Report was among the speakers and reminded Commissioners of their legal obligations per open meetings law to hold discussions concerning county business out in the open. “The fact is, at no time did the Commissioners, on public record, provide a clear outline of the Planning Commission’s make-up in light of the new appointments. At no time, was Jen Sanborn or the Upper North Fork Planning Area’s seat mentioned on record; and at no time was there public discussion about how the two “at large” seats would be reassigned,” said JoAnn Kalenak, the organization’s lead blogger.

Natasha Léger, interim Executive Director for Citizens for a Healthy Community, pointed out to Commissioners that their appointments violated the PC’s bylaws since both districts and planning areas are required to be represented.

Probably the most poignant voice was that of Jen Sanborn speaking passionately about how the process seemed secretive and how unappreciated she felt after three-plus years of service on the PC, especially the past 18 months participating in the Master Plan process.

Commissioner Suppes defended his original request in early 2017 that the board “fix the representation of the PC” specifically in District 2, which he represents. Suppes claimed that the board had been transparent in discussions on the matter and told residents that “conversations took place no less than six times last year. Not only public meetings of this board, but in open joint meetings between this board and the planning commission where this issue was discussed.”

Surprised by Commissioner Suppes’ response, Citizen Report has submitted a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request for all public meetings that substantiate his claim.

To address questions about violations to the PC bylaws, Commissioner Atchley told residents that while the Commissioners wrote the PC bylaws (and are required to approve them), they were not bound by those bylaws but rather by state statute.

“Those bylaws are county regulations. The planning department, the PC and the County must abide by them,” said former county engineer Bob Kalenak. “I think the Commissioners’ statement that claims they are not bound by the bylaws is challengeable.”

According to planning area representation as outlined in the PC bylaws, the current PC membership consists of two Delta representatives, three Surface Creek representatives, one Leroux Creek representative, one Crawford area representative, two “at large” representatives. Representation from the Upper North Fork area, specifically Paonia, has essentially been eliminated.

Amid questions about how the addition of two planning members, added last year by resolution, could result in a net loss of representation, Commissioners indicated for the first time that the two “at large” representatives would be reassigned to the district where they reside: Angela Mackey, from Peach Valley, to District 1 and Kim Shay, from Leroux Creek, to District 3.

During a recess period, Commissioner Roeber, whose district lost its Paonia representative, talked about the eminent dissolution of the Area Planning Committees (APCs). Commissioner Suppes and PC Chairman Bob Stechert have mentioned using APC members to fill in the gaps left by Jen Sanborn’s removal.

Photo of a sign carried by local resident during the meeting.