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Contention continues in Elba Twp.(From the 12-13-2017 Lapeer County Press)

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ELBA TWP. — Questions over meeting schedules and appointments in Elba Township prompted at-times contentious discussion during the township’s regular board meeting Monday.

One issue was the scheduling of zoning board of appeals meetings for 2018 with two board members saying the “fluid” nature of when they’re held makes it too hard for the general public to keep up.

The other?

A decision by Township Supervisor Mike Boskee to not reappoint longtime planning commission member Vickie Wagner-Smetanka. (He reappointed Michael Smith and Ken Kondrat.)

Boskee replaced Wagner-Smetanka with Brett Knisely, owner of the Lake Inn, 3711 Hunt Road, in Elba Township.

During Monday’s meeting, however, it was revealed that Wagner-Smetanka did not give any indication she didn’t want to be reappointed nor had she even been informed of the decision to replace her on the seven-member planning commission.

Elba Township Clerk Rena Fountain said during Monday’s board meeting that anyone seeking appointment or reappointment to a board or commission should take it upon themselves to express the interest.
Elba Township Clerk Rena Fountain said during Monday’s board meeting that anyone seeking appointment or reappointment to a board or commission should take it upon themselves to express the interest.
Kelly Bales, a township trustee, took issue with the approach.

“Did we even consider the people we are replacing to have a say in that decision?” Bales asked Boskee.

Boskee said Wagner-Smetanka is being replaced for “a multitude of reasons.”

“One of them, as everybody is aware, is her health is not…the greatest,” Boskee said.

Bales asked specifically if Boskee had been in communication with Wagner- Smetanka prior to Monday’s meeting. Boskee said he had not.

“So we’re just going to do this without saying anything to her?” asked Tim Lintz, another township board member. He said he was “upset” by the move.

“Well, I will say something to her after this,” Boskee said.

Boskee then noted his own previous experience of not being reappointed to the planning commission after serving for 10 years.

Lintz brought the conversation back to Wagner-Smetanka, noting she is one of the two “most senior” members on the board.

His questioned why the township would not only replace someone with such experience and knowledge of the planning commission, but also “not do her the courtesy of saying ‘You’re not going to get (re-appointed).’ You’re just going to do it and then tell her.”

“Does that seem morally right to you?” Lintz asked.

Boskee did not answer the question directly, but again referred to his own experience of getting replaced after having served a lengthy term on the planning commission.

Bales once-again brought the focus back to Wagner- Smetanka.

“Just because you said she has health issues…you don’t know what her health issues are now…I mean the planning commission hasn’t even met in how many months?” Bales said.

“To me, you have now, only one person who kind of only really has any kind of knowledge sitting on that planning commission,” Bales said.

Boskee denied the claim, saying all current planning commission members “have been there for more than one term.”

“That planning commission is not new by any stretch of the imagination,” Boskee said.

Lintz said Wagner-Smetanka may very well want to not be reappointed, but said that wasn’t the issue.

“The issue is, I think, we ought to give people consideration — especially one that’s been there for a while — and let them know you’re going to do it,” Lintz said.

To that, Boskee said he didn’t want “to get into private conversations” he’s had with other board members “one way or the other.”

Clerk Rena Fountain said anyone who seeks appointment or reappointment to any of the township’s boards or commissions should take it upon themselves to reach out to the township supervisor.

“Especially someone that’s been there so long knows…” Fountain said.

“Knows what? Knows that the supervisor is going to take them off the board?” Lintz said. “I would think if I was there for about eight years and had the knowledge that you wouldn’t be taking them off the board.”

Boskee cut the conservation off by stating “that is my appointment.”

A motion was made to approve the appointments. It passed 5-2.

Other appointments/reappointments approved with the vote were:

• Kristie Back to board of review. Phyllis Rickabus was approved as an alternate.

• Sean O’Bryan, Lonnie Loveland, and John Kosiara were reappointed to the zoning board of appeals.

The zoning board of appeals also came up in the beginning of the meeting, when Lintz raised questions over the schedule of meetings for 2018.

Per the township’s website, the zoning board reviews where or not “there are unique practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships imposed upon the petitioner’s property by the Elba Township Zoning Ordinance.”

Lintz took particular issue with the part of the official schedule that notes “Additional meetings will be scheduled on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m., as needed.”

“Researching back over the minutes of 2017…that schedule wasn’t followed at all,” Lintz said.

The board met six times: (Tuesday) Oct. 17, (Tuesday) Sept. 26, (Thursday) May 18, (Tuesday) April 18, (Tuesday) March 28, and (Thursday) Feb. 23.

“Every one of those meetings are what you would classify as a special meeting,” Lintz said.

Lintz also noted a newsletter recently sent to township taxpayers with their winter tax bills that informed them that zoning board of appeals meetings would be held on the first Wednesday of the month (as needed) — not the first Thursday.

Boskee explained that the zoning board is only required to meet once. That meeting is set for Jan. 4.

All other meetings are scheduled at the request of the petitioner (the party seeking a zoning variance) and the availability of zoning board members, he said. Further, meetings must be publicly posted at least 18 hours before they are held, Boskee said, and those within 300 feet of the affected area are notified directly.

The newsletter day of the week was simply a typo, he added.

Still, Lintz took issue with the fact that even when petitioners request zoning variances that require the zoning board to meet, such meetings aren’t held on the day of the month approved by the township board.

Boskee suggested taking out mention of a specific day to indicate the zoning board will meet “as-needed.”

“That’s fine, but right now residents think it’s going to be on a Wednesday,” Lintz said.

The board approved amending the day of the week from Thursday to Wednesday.

Also during Monday’s meeting, the board:

• Approved paying $62,153.78 in bills.

• Approved “staff holiday compensation” of $300 per township employee in lieu of pay for days the township hall will be closed for Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

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