BAD AXE – Within seconds of the Huron County Planning Commission electing Robert McLean as its new chairman, Planner Robert Oakes resigned.
Just before resigning, Oakes was sworn in to a new three-year term Wednesday, along with new members Julie Epperson and George Lauinger.
Oakes told the Huron County Board of Commissioners last week he would step down if McLean were voted in as chairman.
And he was.
Oakes casted the lone “no” vote and previous chair Bernie Creguer abstained from voting for McLean. The remaining members supported McLean.
Oakes then stated his feelings about the planning commission over the past two years: That it had become dysfunctional. He offered his resignation.
“I will not serve under a dysfunctional chair,” Oakes stated, as he stood up to leave a packed room.
He handed a letter of resignation to Building and Zoning Director Jeff Smith before leaving.
Planner Carl Duda was elected vice chairman and Epperson was elected secretary.
Before the nominations for officers, Planner Ken Walker made a motion to suspend a section of the recently adopted bylaws that stated planners are not eligible to serve as officers until they have served on the commission for a year.
Oakes was the sole vote against that motion, which allowed Epperson’s eligibility for secretary.
She replaces Jeffery Krohn, who did not seek reappointment.
Before accepting the nomination for secretary, Epperson was concerned about whether she would be legally liable for the records she had to keep.
McLean assured her that although the minutes she keeps would be the legal record for the commission, the commission is responsible for approving or disapproving minutes, and so she would have “leeway.”
The planners also debated whether Oakes should be allowed to remain on a recently formed committee that will reexamine the county’s wind ordinance. He was appointed by Creguer last month, along with McLean and Walker.
Creguer stated at the time of the appointment that if Oakes was not chosen for the planning commission, he could be a member representing the public.
Walker said if Oakes cannot get along with McLean, he shouldn’t be on the committee and Planner Terry Heck agreed.
Creguer said it’s up to the committee chair to manage that, and added the board of commissioners must have some faith in Oakes because he was reappointed.
McLean suggested replacing him with a planning commission member. He also asked Sami Khoury for his suggestion. Khoury is chairman of the board of commissioners and is also a liaison to the planning commission.
Khoury said there was no reason not to keep Oakes on the committee.
McLean appointed Heck to the committee, and took no action regarding Oakes.
During public comment, Caseville resident Jim Quinn noted that Oakes was a man of his word because he followed through and stepped down like he said he would.
However, Quinn said Oakes was not demonstrating being a “team player” by resigning. Those are words Oakes used to describe himself before the board of commissioners during his interview, Quinn said.
Also during public comment, county Emergency Services Director Randy Miller publicly thanked Oakes for his service on the planning commission.
Oakes was a founding member of the planning commission 52 years ago, and returned to it in recent years.
He is the second member since January to resign from the commission. The board of commissioners is expected to choose a replacement for former Planner Charles Bumhoffer soon.
The planners also addressed the following issues:
• Approved a site plan for an expansion at Blue Diamond Steel Casting, LLC in Winsor Township, pending variance approval by the Huron County Zoning Board of Appeals. The company wants to add a 100-feet-by-400-feet expansion, which would be 50 feet tall.
• Discussed renewing the county’s moratorium on commercial solar development, which expires in June. Planners decided that since the moratorium is in effect until an ordinance governing solar is approved, extending the moratorium would not be necessary.
• Miller updated the board on the Hazard Mitigation Plan grant that he is seeking.
• Four PA 116 applications were approved for the state’s farmland preservation program.
• The wind ordinance committee will meet at 6 p.m. April 25 in Room 305 in the county building, prior to a meeting between planners and the Spicer Group at 7 p.m. to work on the Huron County Master Plan.
The next regular planning commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 2 in Room 305 of the county building.
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