Schoolcraft seeks to fill key volunteer positions

By Rob Peterson

Due to a shortage of volunteers, the village Council discussed combining the Planning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority.

The Planning Commission is charged with recommending zoning ordinance changes to the Council regarding what property owners may do with their property. They determine what uses are allowed in which part of town and review site plans for proposed buildings.

The Planning Commission also plays a key role in developing the community’s master plan.

The Downtown Development Authority is responsible for increasing investment in the downtown area. A DDA typically has its own budget that increases as property values increase, and it may spend the money on events, promotions and business development.

Members of both groups are appointed by the village president. Most but not all of the volunteers are required to be village residents.

Currently, the village is required to have five members of the Planning Commission, but has just four. The DDA is required to have eight members, but it also has just four members.

State law allows a community of fewer than 5,000 residents to combine the Planning Commission and the DDA, as Vicksburg has. Doing so would reduce the total number of required volunteers from 13 to nine, reducing the shortfall of volunteers.

The council asked village Manager Cheri Lutz to review combining the two groups as a potential solution to the lack of volunteers.

While combining the two groups would allow the village to operate with fewer volunteers, it was not seen as a viable option by staff or the council.

“The Planning Commission and the DDA are two different groups with different perspectives,” said President Keith Gunnett. “The DDA is a group of businesspeople talking about how to grow our downtown, and the Planning Commission is people making rules.”

There was also a concern about having “a small group of people leading the town,” added Gunnett. “We really need more people involved.”

The council decided to keep the Planning Commission and the DDA separate, with a 5-member Planning Commission and an 8-member DDA. It is actively recruiting new members for both groups.

Correction: The May issue of the South County News misidentified the new Schoolcraft police chief. His correct name is Scott Smith.

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