A measure approved by council members in October establishing new rules for the city planning commission was repealed and replaced with a similar ordinance during the regular Alma City Council meeting Thursday night.
Council member Jerry Martin proposed a new planning commission ordinance similar to one approved in October, but without an amendment that required all commission members to reside within the city limits.
Initially the ordinance put forward by Martin in October allowed that the commission could continue to have up to two members residing outside of the city, but was amended after a suggestion from Mayor Keith Greene.
Greene told council members that complications from allowing commissioners to reside outside the city had been under discussion at recent municipal meetings, and that the attorney general had recommended city residency be required.
Martin decided to repeal the ordinance passed in October after learning the attorney general recommendation was from 2001, and replace it with an ordinance that “mirrors” his original ordinance and is “in line with state law,” he said.
Martin’s replacement also removes the requirement that one city council member sit the commission, he said.
“We just don’t need it,” Martin said. “We have a city planner now who communicates with the council about what the commission is doing, and we have a mandated meeting once a year with the council and commission to make sure we’re on the same page.”
Other regulations outlined in the new ordinance state that at least two-thirds of the commission members shall hold no other municipal office or appointment; no two members shall be related by blood or marriage in the third degree; and no two members are allowed to have direct financial involvement with each other in development projects that impact the city.
All commission members must disclose annually all real estate holdings in Alma and its planning area and any business or financial interests which could affect the commission’s decisions.
Each commission appointment will be for a term of three years and will be staggered, with two appointments each year.
Initial appointments following the implementation of the new ordinance on Jan. 1 shall be two members for one year, two members for two years, two members for three years and the council member for one year.
Council members unanimously approved the repeal of the previous ordinance and its replacement. Current members of the planning commission shall remain in their positions at least until Jan. 1.
Council members also approved a resolution agreeing to comply with an order from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality to resolve an algae problem at the city’s water treatment plant.
Public Works Director Mark Yardley told council members that his department had been working to resolve the algae problem, which had been ongoing.
To comply with the ADEQ order, the city must resolve the issue by the end of 2018, and pay a $1,000 fine, Yardley said.
A request from Crawford County Public Defender Ryan Norris for Alma to contribute to the salary and benefits of a new defense attorney who would be dedicated to processing municipal cases was tabled until January.