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Commissioners Object To Change In Planning Unit Role

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The Arm Arbor planning system needs to be shored up, but it's not so rickety that the whole structure should be scrapped, the Planning Comm i s s i o n decided Tuesday night. ' The commission, meeting in a working session, decided to prepare a list of recommendations for changes in the planning process for City Council which most likely will advocate retention of the sion's current responsibilitfes. The commission met for the first time to discuss a Community Planning and Managem e n t ( C P M ) report that would drastically change the nature of the planning process. Included in the report's recommendations is the creation of a position of assistant administrator for planning and development which would have authority over the city's operating departments and all planning matters. This would reduce the Planning Commission's duties principally to major projects, along the lines of master planning and policy matters. But the concensus of the commission Tuesday was that the suggested changes are too drastic. Commissioner Ethyl Lewis noted that "The (CPM) , report is based on the [ assumption that because the present system is not workingrit cáñnot work. I'd like to try to see if we can make it work." The commission's feelings were backed up by Planning Director Michael Prochaska, who said the present system has merits enough to keep it in f orce. Prochaska also agreed with the report's suggestion that there be a position of assist a n t administrator f o r development. However, he suggested this person should be responsible to both the city administrator and the planning director', instead of just the administrator as t h e report recommends. If the present system is found to be unworkable, then the report's suggestions can still be used, Prochaska said. "At some point in time the j city may need a benevolent j dictator. And there are organ-1 izational charts in this report that will do that," he added. Prochaska's comments came after the author of the CPM report, Patrick Larkey, had suggested the planning director for the proposed assistant administrator position. Larkey's recommendation of Prochaska carne after a quest i o n from the commission about what sort of person would be needed to fill the new position. Besides the workability of the current planning system, the comissioners were also concerned about centralizing too much power in the administrator's office. Commissioner Gerald DeGrieck said flatly that he does not want "to concéntrate more power under (Administrator Guy C.) Larcom." Charles Pieinhart, sion chairman, added, "Quite frankly, I don't think Larcom is out after a power grab." Reinhart added that he feels Larcom is, in fact, asking for some relief from the responsibilities the city is placing on him. Larkey also denied that Larcom had anything to do with the report or its recommendations. "Everytime I tried to talk with him about it, he cut me off. He wouldn't even talk abcfct it. This is strictly my report," Larkey said. Besides offering Larkey's recommendation for changes, the commission also indicated disagreement with an altérnate plan presented by Commissioner Franz Mogdis whereby the commission would have its own staff and a deputy administrator would have a separate planning staff. Mogdis said the tive staff could work with developers for coming up with building proposals, and the commission's staff could study these and recommend alternatives to the commission. Under the present system, the same staff that works with builders on developing a plan also presents and tries to critique that plan for the commissioners. This conflict prohibits quality planning, Mogdis said. But the other commissioners claimed that Mogdis' system would greatly separate the commission's staff from the rest of the city's operation, and this might lead to council paying attention only to the administrative staff's suggestions. The cast of maintaining two planning staffs was also questioned. Commissioner Robert Potts was also critical of Larkey's recommendations because, he said, it placed the "integrity" of the commission in jeopardy. But he agreed that one needed change was to give the planning director more authority to obtain the needed information from City Hall officials. It was also pointed out that a few years ago the city did have a position of assistant administrator for coordination and planning, but the job never worked out. Larkey said this was because the position was "an administrative never-never-land" because no authority or staff was included. The commission agreed to meet in working session again next month to discuss the CPM report further. The CPM's Executive Board is also scheduled to meet this afternoon to discuss the report and possible recommendations to council. - , . __,