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Planning & Zoning Commission Recommends Changing Attendance Policy

Teton County Planning & Zoning Commission recommends changing attendance policy

Planning Commissioners in Attendance:

Eight PZC members are present except for Shawn Hill who dials in later from Denver once the attendance discussion is over. 


Chairman Dave Hensel opens up the discussion by saying that he will not do this in executive session because “this isn’t about absences, it’s more about policy.” He says the Board of County Commissioners asked for a recommendation from the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC) on the following:

  • The county’s attendance policy which presently states that PZC commissioners can be removed for missing 4 meetings.
  • Whether Shawn Hill’s presence on the PZC through March 1, 2015 will be disruptive.

Chairman Hensel says the current  “Four Meeting Rule” is a remnant from when the PZC met less than 12 times per year. Now they meet 24 times per year. “We should try to be above politics as much as possible. I’m not very comfortable with what we’ve been asked to do here. I don’t want the planning and zoning commission to become more of a political football than it already is. It’s like that saying where you see your neighbor get taken away and you say ‘Oh, they’ll never come for me.’ You should think about the broader implications beyond just VARD.” He mentions how the county commissioner administration changes every two years, “We need a functioning PZC.”

Pete Moyer says that board members could come out against a decision that the PZC makes and that could be a problem. 

Chris Larsen asks: “Well, what if I am on the TVAP board? Don’t just think about VARD here. What about all the other groups?”

Bruce Arnold says that comparison is apples and oranges. “VARD is different because they are here at every meeting to advocate on planning matters.” He will sorely miss his expertise, but he feels like Shawn made that decision when he took that job at VARD. However, Arnold thinks the Four Meeting Rule is “totally ridiculous”. He also doesn’t think it’s a valid request for the BOCC to ask for a recommendation about Shawn Hill. “We don’t decide that. I think that’s a poor request to ask of us period. It will just muddy the waters.”

Chris Larsen: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to sit here and judge each other in this group of us volunteers.” 

Bruce Arnold: “I agree.”

Chris Larsen: “We are working well together as a group.” 

Bruce Arnold: “I agree.” 

Chairman Hensel mentions how all 9 PZC commissioners are unpaid volunteers. “I’m not real happy that we’re seemingly always getting beat up by the BOCC. We have to function above politics.”

Bruce Arnold says said he actually had a Q & A interview with the BOCC before he was appointed to the PZC. He thinks they still should do that, and more specifically, the BOCC should meet with Shawn Hill .  

David Breckenridge feels it’s ok for the BOCC to ask the PZC for their opinion, but he too feels like the current attendance rule is “idiotic”. However, Shawn Hill is the president of VARD and he sees that as different than just being the member of an organization. “Being president sends a different message.” 

Marlene Robson, asks if VARD is a full time paid position. “VARD has been very heavily involved in the Comp Plan.” She recalls her memory of VARD mailing out a Comprehensive Plan flyer that she thought was disturbing. “They have an agenda and things that they want. They aren’t as concerned with private property rights as I am. They have an agenda and he is the executive director.” 

Chairman Hensel urges Robson to realize there are other organizations and businesses besides just VARD. “What about other groups and businesses?”

Robson replies that she thinks presidents of groups involved in land use and policy decisions should step down too.

Chris Larsen: “Looking at the past six months and what we have on the horizon for the next three months, there’s not  much there. I think Shawn is a valuable player and we’re really going to need him over the next three months. He’s a professional planner. We are going to need him.”

Pete Moyer agrees. He thinks Shawn should still stick around through the code writing process. 

Breckenridge and Robson emphasize that being a paid president sets a bad message. 

County Attorney Kathy Spitzer recommends that the Four Meeting Rule could be changed to say if a PZC commissioner misses a certain percentage of meetings or has to recuse themselves from a certain percentage of meetings, then that is grounds for removal. 

Bruce Arnold likes this idea. He suggests that missing 1/3 of meeting or having to recuse yourself from 1/3 of meetings would be good in numbers to use as standards for this new rule. (Now that the PZC meets twice monthly, this would = 8 meetings.)

Dave Breckenridge worries that Shawn Hill still won’t recuse himself.  He worries that VARD will going to lobby Shawn to push for certain numbers on density in the new code. 

Spitzer points out that “code writing is legislative and in that case, you should be talking to constituents about their thoughts. It is not inappropriate to be discussing legislative issues like code writing with constituents.”

Dave Breckenridge says that he just doesn’t believe that Shawn will step down and recuse himself as needed because he will be under pressure from his employer.

Chris Larsen refers back to the need “for PZC folks to trust each other to follow the rules” and code of ethics in order for the PZC to have a functioning board. 

Spitzer points out that every member of the PZC is supposed to recuse themselves if they are under financial or workplace pressure. “That onus is on everyone to disclose and recuse.” 

Ron Moeller: “We’ve danced around what we’re all talking about. Dave Hensel, you have brought up the public trust and public perception of this board.”  He then references the what he has heard were “disastrous” comp plan hearings at the high school. He worries that Shawn is going to bring a lot of undue stress to the process. “If Shawn wants the code to truly succeed for this county, he should pull himself off the board.”

Cleve Booker: “This is all just crap. Here we are 45 minutes into the situation. I started this three and a half years ago as chairman of the comp plan committee.” Booker then recites what he believes to be all the recent drama with the BOCC: firing Curt Moore, trying to kick people off PZC, then adding new appointees, Stephen Loosli, and then Code Studio. “I appreciate Shawn’s expertise 100 percent.” He says Shawn is bright and professional. “I spoke to Shawn about this personally. At first I wanted him to stay, and then I worried about all the noise. I want the drama to stop. But then again, how are we gonna be done in two more meetings in March? I don’t want to be put in the position to say Shawn’s out of here. That’s not our job. I really would like this code to be clean; the Comp Plan has baggage attached to it. I mean, can’t we get stuff done instead of doing stuff over and over and over again? We’ve had something pop up every three months lately. I think this should be probably Shawn’s decision. I’m not necessarily in favor of a vote from this Board either. I don’t want to set some kind of precedent here. Shawn knew this was coming when he accepted the position. Let him make this decision so we can move one – I mean, we’re already fifty minutes in to tonight’s meeting.”

The final decisions

  • Bruce Arnold then makes a MOTION to recommend the BOCC change the Four Meeting Rule to be that if you miss 1/3 of the meetings or if you have to recuse yourself from 1/3 of the hearings – then you can be removed. This motion passes UNANIMOUSLY. 
  • The PZC then agrees that the will make no other recommendation to the Board regarding Shawn Hill.
  • Dave Breckenridge makes a MOTION to have the BOCC to listen to the PZC’s discussion on this issue if they want to, and make a decision on their own. Seven commissioners vote in support of this; Bruce Arnold casts a dissenting vote. He says that he voted nay because he doesn’t want “send out any more stuff out there that people will pass judgment on.”

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