Longtime Planning Commission Chair Jeff Hoffman stepped into a familiar role when he returned to Spring Park city council Jan. 21, filling by appointment the vacancy left by Megan Pavot last November.

Hoffman has served previously on the city council, first by appointment and then by winning re-election. He has been chairman of the planning commission for nine of the 13 years he’s served on that body and has been a part of major recent discussions like the city’s ordinance changes on outdoor storage and the redevelopment of West Arm Road.

Hoffman will also continue to be a part of the ongoing debate around the proposed city-level regulation of rental properties, a debate that has now come into city council’s hands after nearly two years in the planning commission.

Hoffman indicated in his application for Pavot’s seat that he sees bike and pedestrian safety as major issues in the city, as well as the city’s aging infrastructure.

With Hoffman’s appointment, the five-member council is back to its full power, having seen some volatility with two vacancies in as many months. Former council member Catherine Kane Palen stepped down in mid-September after announcing in August that she would be moving out of Spring Park; then came Pavot’s death from health complications on Nov. 16.

Hoffman will still serve out his term as chairman of the city’s planning commission, which triggered a change in the city’s ordinance governing the makeup of its planning commission and its relationship with city council.

The three council members present Jan. 21 voted unanimously to adopt changes that would allow a council member to serve concurrently on the planning commission, a change staff had already considered after receiving two applications in December for the open council seat from two sitting commissioners, Hoffman and Michael Mason.

The ordinance, prior to the Jan. 21 amendments, would have prevented either applicant from serving concurrently on both the council and the planning commission despite both Hoffman and Mason having indicated they would like to do so if given the council appointment.

The changes safeguard against having to seek applicants for yet another position, which can be a tough sell for some cities that have difficulty with recruitment and retention of commissioners – volunteer positions – and end up adopting ordinances that permit sitting council members to also serve on their planning boards.

The changes to Spring Park’s ordinance include two limiting clauses, chiefly an abstention clause that a council member may not vote on their own appointment to the planning commission. The amended ordinance also stipulates that only one commissioner may perform this dual role and that if a second commissioner is later appointed or elected to the council that person would have to give up their seat on the commission and the council would then have to seek applicants for the vacancy.

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