What Clintonville Area Commission Chairman Daniel J. Miller said was an oversight for which he apologized turned into the latest internal brouhaha at the commission's monthly meeting last week.
A seemingly minor item -- the sale of a small amount of public right of way to the owners of a home on East Longview Avenue -- devolved into angry exchanges between Miller and James R. Blazer II, the District 3 representative.
Miller began the discussion regarding the right-of-way sale by apologizing for not having brought it to Blazer's attention well in advance of a few days prior to the monthly meeting, held last Thursday, March 7. The sale involves David and Michele Dicke's home, which is in District 3.
Miller said the city's right-of-way coordinator had simply brought the request directly to him as chairman.
David Dicke said he and his wife, in preparing to move to a home with fewer steps, were advised by a real-estate agent to clear up the issue of about a third of their garage encroaching on public land.
The commission was given until today, March 14, to support or oppose the purchase.
Blazer responded to Miller's apology by saying he hoped all members of the commission would refer such matters to the person in whose district an issue arises. He said a similar problem recently cropped up in District 2.
"The pattern is troubling," Blazer said.
Miller said he doubted Blazer was advocating a rule prohibiting commission members from discussing matters with people outside of their districts, but Blazer replied it is the job of each commission member to meet with people affected by such issues as rezoning requests and right of way in order to gain their opinions -- something he added he still isn't certain had taken place regarding the East Longview property.
Dicke said the sixth step of 13 in the city's process for selling land to a property owner is notification of surrounding residents.
Miller said a line exists between formal and informal conversations commission members have with residents. D Searcy of District 9 added there are times a resident might want to speak with someone other than their district representative "on the QT" or in confidence, simply to obtain information.
Jennifer Kangas of District 6 said she would always refer a resident to the appropriate commission member.
Conversations "on the QT" violate the spirit of openness, Blazer said of Searcy's comment. He added giving opinions in confidence is "wholly inappropriate."
After hearing from the applicant, zoning and variance committee Chairwoman Dana K.G. Bagwell moved to back the request, but Blazer said he felt the panel was "on shaky ground" in doing so.
"We're setting a bad precedent by not speaking with the neighbors," he said.
Kangas said doing so would amount to "voting in a vacuum."
During roll-call voting, Blazer sought to explain his vote but Miller cut him off, saying he should just state "yes" or "no." When Blazer pointed out commission members frequently give the reasons for taking a position and demanded to know where such a rule existed, Miller invited him to appeal the chairman's decision. No one seconded Blazer's request to appeal the ruling, and the vote continued.
The final tally was five in favor, Kangas alone voting "no" and Blazer abstaining.