City updates Planning Commission membership residency requirements

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The City Council voted unanimously this week to introduce an ordinance updating the residency requirement for members of the Planning Commission. The proposed code amendment would require a planner to be physically present in Avalon at least nine months of the year.

Mayor Anni Marshall asked about the residency requirement.

“It’s nine months residency on the Island,” said City Attorney Scott Campbell.

Marshall then asked about someone who had a second home and spent three-to-four months on the mainland.

The text of the ordinance says a planning commissioner must live on the Island at least nine months of the year.

Councilmember Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy said she thought if you held a subsidy card, that should suffice.

Marshall then asked if the council should keep the alternate position on the Planning Commission. “We don’t put alternates to us,” she said.

According to Councilmember Michael Ponce, the alternate position was created in case there was a conflict of interest.

Cassidy said she would favor eliminating the alternate position. However, she said she vaguely remembered that adding the alternate required staff to bring an ordinance back to the council.

According to Campbell, the City Council could hold the matter over to eliminate the Planning Commission alternate, or the council could vote on the ordinance that was before them and staff would bring an ordinance back to the council to eliminate the alternate.

“You don’t have to fill the alternate,” Campbell said.

According to Campbell, staff usually know there is a conflict of interest a week before the meeting. He said very rarely does the city need to ask the alternate to be suddenly prepared.

For now, the council decided to go ahead and vote only on the residency issue.

Ponce made the motion to introduce the ordinance.

Councilmember Yesenia De La Rosa seconded the motion.

Here’s the background:

“It was brought to City Staff’s attention that the Avalon Municipal Code (AMC) does not require a member of the Planning Commission to be a full-time resident of Avalon,” according to the March 1 staff report by Devin Hart, administrative analyst and deputy city clerk.

The issue was discussed at the Feb. 15 council meeting, when the council members appointed resident Bruce Fertig to the Planning Commission. (For details, visit and look up “Council names new planning commissioner.”)

“The current ordinance allows persons who own a business or serve in a management function to serve on the Planning Commission, regardless of their residency,” Hart wrote.

“In recent history, all Planning Commissioners have resided in Avalon full time during their term on the Commission,” Hart wrote.

According to her report, Avalon staff determined that 47 cities require Planning Commissioners to live in their cities.

“The cities of Sonoma and Upland allows for non-residents to be appointed as Planning Commissioners if approved by the City Council by a 4/5 vote. However, the City of Upland noted that a non-resident has never been appointed to the Planning Commission,” Hart wrote.

“Only the cities of Fortuna, Palm Springs and Shasta Lake responded as allowing for planning commissioners to either reside in their cities or own a business within the City,” Hart wrote.

“City Staff recommends eliminating the option of non-resident business owners or management personnel to be able to serve on the Planning Commission,” Hart wrote.

At the Feb. 15 council meeting, City Clerk Denise Radde, Councilmember Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy, and Mayor Anni Marshall called for clarification of the code.