Planning, zoning, governance honed in city workshops

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About 25 people attended the Oct. 24 work session on planning and zoning led by Eric Christianson, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach field specialist in local government and community and economic development.

City government is not all fun and games.

This is as true for elected officeholders, such as the Perry Mayor and City Council members — virtual volunteers who more than earn their nominal $1,000-a-year salaries — as it is for the actual volunteers on boards and commissions, who get nothing for their time but the gratitude of their fellow citizens.

The issues these governmental groups and subgroups are called upon to address are often complex and involve precious taxpayers dollars, so the more expert they are at their jobs, the better.

Two recent workshops were hosted by the city as part of the ongoing effort to keep sharp the skills of Perry’s volunteer governors, illustrating the principle that that government governs best which governs smartest.

Eric Christianson, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach field specialist in local government and community and economic development, led both workshops. Christianson specializes in comprehensive planning, zoning, subdivision and other land use matters and in community leadership training.

The larger session, held Oct. 24 session at the Perry Public Library, brought together the members of the Perry City Council and Administration, Perry Planning and Zoning Commission and Perry Zoning Board of Adjustment.

The city council and planning and zoning commission each had a quorum of members present, so each group called itself to order in a formal public meeting. Only two of the five members of the board of adjustment attended, so they did not formally meet.

The Perry City Council is composed of Perry Mayor John Andorf and five Council members: Dean Berkland, Vicki Klein, Dr. Randy McCaulley, Chuck Schott and Barb Wolling. Perry City Administrator Sven Peterson, Perry City Clerk Paula Rychnovsky and Perry Building Official Abraham Cardenas also attended the October work session.

The Perry Planning and Zoning Commission is composed of seven members: Jim “J. P.” Hulgan, Rueben Gonzalez, Alice Miskimins, Frank Eiteman, Erin Butler, ​Ashley Platt and — as of Monday night’s city council meeting — Ron Leber, who was appointed to complete the unexpired term of longtime Perry public servant Wilbur Dickerson.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment was represented by at the meeting by members Bruce Klein and Larry Meachum. Members Rhonda Olson, Paula Secress and John Taylor Jr. did not attend.

Christianson led the public servants planning and land-use topics, including the purpose of a comprehensive plan, the function of zoning ordinances, the roles of zoning decision makers and the variety of issues that crop up in planning and zoning. One important distinction drawn by Christianson was between the comprehensive plan, which sets the city’s policies going forward, and zoning ordinances, which are the law right now.

Christianson led a smaller workshop Nov. 7 just for the city council and administration. Along with refreshing attendees awareness of the law governing open meetings and open records, he described the role of the council in relation to the city administration and the heads of city departments and discussed the importance of community leadership training.

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