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October 09, 2013 - Everybody's downsizing these days including the Oxford Village Planning Commission.

Last week, commissioners voted 6-0 to reduce the board's size from nine to seven members.

"I strongly feel this group needs to be smaller," said Chairman Bryan Cloutier. "It's really difficult to do the type of work that we do with nine people having individual personalities – I don't know what else to call it."

Reducing the size of the planning commission will have to be done through the ordinance amendment process, which includes a public hearing, two readings and approval by the village council.

Currently, the planning commission has only five members. Prior to last week's meeting, the board had two vacancies. That number increased last week to four with the resignations of Dale Wolicki and Cloutier.

Cloutier had to resign because he was appointed to the village council and the ordinance only allows for two council members to serve on the planning commission. Those seats are occupied by councilwomen Sue Bossardet and Maureen Helmuth.

Bossardet was in favor of reducing the board to seven because it will be hard enough to fill two vacancies let alone four.

Commissioner John DuVal said the village needs to launch a recruitment campaign designed to explain to the public the role and function of the planning commission. He indicated there are citizens who are not even aware the commission exists.

Village Planner Chris Khorey, a representative from McKenna Associates, Inc., suggested a way the commission could broaden its pool of potential applicants.

He explained that state law allows two of its members to be individuals who own property or a business in the village, but are not residents of the municipality.

DuVal vehemently opposed that idea.

He said the planning commission has a responsibility to the community and "to water it down just to get bodies on here is foolish."

"Frankly, I'd be insulted," DuVal continued. "I might as well walk right out if we're just going to go pick people and plop them in here and change our rules."

DuVal explained that ideally, the planning commission should have members who represent the three elements of the village – the downtown district, the original village and the Oxford Lakes subdivision.

"There is an obligation when you live in the community, to some extent, to serve it," he said. "I don't think we want to get into recruiting just to get a body in a chair."

DuVal believes the planning commission should consist of property owners only. He's opposed the idea of business owners who do not own property in the village serving on the board.

To DuVal, planning commissioners should be "people with skin in the game," those who pay property taxes and vote in the village.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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