Proposed new rules for those who serve on Columbus' area commissions have upset a number of community leaders.

Among the changes would be term limits for officers, which community leaders say would hamper their ability to do their work while decreasing interest in the volunteer positions.

The city has 19 area commissions, the first of which was created in the 1970s. They work to connect neighborhoods with Columbus officials in a city that has no Columbus City Council ward representatives. The commissions make recommendations about zoning to the City Council and discuss other issues facing their communities.

Some commission leaders have served for years, including Jim Griffin of the Columbus South Side Area Commission, who just began his ninth year as that group's chairman.

The proposed changes would require the chairman, vice chairman and treasurer serve in those officers no more than six consecutive years. They could, however, serve again in leadership positions after a gap of at least three consecutive years.

"You're going to lose some seasoned leaders in terms of area commissioner leadership," Griffin said.

"They don't have term limits for council and the mayor. If the person isn't doing a good job, they won't be elected to another term," he said.

Carla Williams Scott, director of the Columbus Department of Neighborhoods, said city officials surveyed area commission members to help determine what could make them more effective and efficient.

The city is taking feedback from the commissions through March 8.

Scott said city officials want to see more people become involved, and commission members should reflect the makeup of the communities they serve. They are proposing the number of commissioners be limited to 15, and they want to begin an awareness campaign so more people know what commissions do.

"This is in no way personal for any one area commission or group of folks," she said.

But some are taking it that way.

"If I want to volunteer in my neighborhood for 20 years, I should do that," said Annie Womack, the vice chairwoman of the Near East Area Commission for more than 10 years. "When you start with all these rules, people don't want to be involved."

Susan Keeny of the University Area Commission said term limits for officers' positions would make it harder to find people who want to serve.

Stefanie Coe, who leads the Southwest Area Commission, said she has offered to step down as chairwoman at the end of each year, but no one has wanted to step up to take her place.

"Practically, I think this is ridiculous," she said.

mferench@dispatch.com

@MarkFerenchik