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Geneva committee kills effort to combine ZBA with plan commission

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 6:40 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 2:12 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – An effort to combine Geneva's zoning board of appeals with its plan commission fell flat this week, as aldermen, voting as the Committee of the Whole, voted 6-3 not to recommend it.

Because the issue of creating a single planning and zoning commission was voted down at committee, it will not come before the council for further review, officials said.

The six who voted against it were 1st Ward Aldermen Charles Brown and Mike Bruno, 2nd Ward Aldermen Don Cummings and Richard Marks, 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg and 4th Ward Alderman Dorothy Flanagan.

The three who voted for it were 4th Ward Alderman Ron Singer and 5th Ward Aldermen Craig Maladra and Tom Simonian.

Third Ward Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg was absent.

Mayor Kevin Burns said he was behind the movement to consolidate the two into a single body, to increase the efficiency of their work in that a petitioner would not have to appear before two bodies. Staff identified 20 cases that would have moved forward more efficiently if the two boards were one.

"I have always believed it is in our best interest to streamline where we can without jeopardizing the product we provide, and that is service to the community, the citizen, developers and to create efficiencies for staff and the council," Burns said. "I believe this proposal accomplished all those goals.

The council felt otherwise. That's the end of it."

Cummings said it was not easy for him to vote against the proposal.

"I understand the frustration people have to deal with any government office when have to go through several hoops," Cummings said. "However, with that, I am reluctant to consolidate power. I think that bringing 17 or 16 eyes down to far fewer – seven people – leads to a lack of diversity in thinking."

Cummings said there may be a better way to streamline the process for petitioners, but without lessening diversity.

"It's not this easy black and white issue," Cummings said.

Maladra said the trend to combine the zoning board of appeals with a plan commission is readily seen in other communities. His concern for Geneva, he said, is that the staff is not likely to be increased while it will face double the work as the economy continues to improve.

"They're going to create packages for double meetings, and double the work ends up being a problem for us going forward," Maladra said. "We have fixed financial and intellectual resources. At the end of the day, if our staff has to spend time – and I anticipate more and more demand as the economy improves – then we will have issues."

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