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Hearing set to reduce PC size; councilman wants to nix body

by CJ Carnacchio

October 16, 2013

While the Oxford Village Council is considering reducing the size of the municipality's planning commission by two members, one councilman wants to see the entire body eliminated.

"If I had my way, I'd probably do away with the planning commission here permanently and have the township take on those responsibilities," said Councilman Elgin Nichols at last week's village meeting. "Maybe that's a discussion we can have further down the line."

A pubic hearing regarding a proposal to reduce the size of the village planning commission from nine to seven members and allow up to one non-resident property owner to serve is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 in the council chambers located at 22 W. Burdick St.

But Nichols believes that number could be reduced to zero because the township planning commission has enough knowledge and efficiency to oversee the village, too.

"If anyone has ever watched the township planning commission meetings, the people on that board understand they get it," he said. "They make things happen and they make things happen quickly."

"I've watched them very (closely) and they do know state (laws) and local ordinances very well," Nichols continued.

To Nichols, having two planning commission is an example of "redundancy."

"We're doing the same thing that they're doing, except we're not doing as good a job," he said. "We're not making decisions as well as they could be (made)."

For example, he believes the township is further along than the village when it comes to its involvement in Oakland County's One Stop Initiative.

The program involves the county and local municipalities working together to reduce the delays and bureaucratic red tape that can often be obstacles to attracting and retaining businesses.

"The township they've got it, they get it," Nichols said. "They know how it works and they're making it work. We're not."

Nichols noted he hears people joke about the village's participation in this county program. They call it "One Stop Come to a Halt."

Nichols' idea aside, council debated the idea of allowing a non-resident to serve on the village planning commission.

"I feel that it would be a good move," Nichols said. "I don't see any problem with it at all . . . There probably should be a non-resident to provide additional input."

Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth disagreed.

"I just think we have a large enough population that we should not have trouble finding residents to sit on the planning commission," she said. "I think residents have more of a vested interest in it. They live here. They know what they need. They know what they want to look at every day. I just feel (planning commissioners) should be residents."

Nichols said that some business owners have "invested a great deal in this town, yet they don't have any say" because they don't live in the village.

"I think that would be a good thing to have them on (the commission)," he said. "A lot of these people have taken their life-savings to try and make (their) business go."

Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, who lives in the village, suggested to council it have someone who serves on both the township and village planning commissions to act as a liaison between the two bodies.

"We do have a bit of a symbiotic relationship here," Dunn said.