ES council declares vacancy

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Eureka Springs City Council officially has an open seat.

On Monday night, the council accepted alderman David Mitchell’s resignation and declared a vacancy for his seat. Alderman Bob Thomas asked how the council should move forward considering elections are coming up in November, only a few months away.

City attorney Tim Weaver read the state law, saying the council “shall proceed to elect” a new council person at the first regular meeting after the vacancy has been declared. Alderwoman Kristi Kendrick agreed with Weaver and said the word “shall” implies the council must name a replacement for Mitchell.

“Does ‘proceed’ mean we have to do it immediately, or can we develop a timeline?” Thomas asked. “Does that not mean proceeding?”

“If your timeline is to involve four months of not appointing anyone, that would be looked on unkindly by a court,” Weaver said. “That would be beyond what they could probably stomach. ‘Shall’ tells you it’s not something to necessarily try to create your own rules.”

The council must vote to fill the seat at its next meeting, Weaver said, if candidates apply for the position. Those interested in the seat should contact City Hall, Weaver said. Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she’s worried about taking a vote when citizens have already expressed interest in running for the seat in November. She’d rather appoint someone to the seat who doesn’t plan to run for it, Schneider said.

“It had been originally suggested that the people running for Seat 2 of Ward 1 that we should be choosing from them to fill this seat, and I am 1,000 percent against that,” Schneider said. “It is extremely unfair to everybody else running. If you have three people running and this council, on their own, appoints one person, the other two may as well give it up.”

Thomas said that’s not up for discussion yet.

“Our business right now is to declare the vacancy, and if we want to discuss the process for filling that spot, we should add that to the agenda for the next meeting,” Thomas said.

Mayor Butch Berry agreed, and the council moved on to fill the mayor pro-tem position and an empty seat on the City Advertising and Promotion Commission. Mitchell held both positions before resigning. Thomas nominated alderman Terry McClung for mayor pro-tem, and the council unanimously agreed. Kendrick nominated alderwoman Melissa Greene for the CAPC position, but McClung voted no and the motion failed. Schneider then nominated Thomas for the position, and the council unanimously agreed.

In other business, the council addressed five ordinances proposed by the planning commission. The council started with proposed Ordinance 2269, which would change the procedure for planning issues. Planning commission chairwoman Ann Tandy-Sallee said the proposed ordinance is meant to prevent the commission from having a public hearing when it comes to certain planning issues.

“Should there not be a public hearing at some point for zoning changes?” McClung asked.

“We’re not changing zoning. I’m not talking about zoning,” Tandy-Sallee said. “I’m talking about the changes we’ve been working on. We did a public hearing and nobody showed up.”

“That’s just part of the deal. That happens a lot in government,” McClung said. “I don’t think we should be eliminating anything in the process.”

Greene moved to read the proposed ordinance a third time by title only, and Kendrick said it doesn’t reduce the number of public hearings. Tandy-Sallee said the commission doesn’t mind having public hearings, saying the proposed ordinance was meant to clarify the process. McClung moved to defer the proposed ordinance until the council has a better idea of what it means, and the council agreed to do so.

“I’d be happy to forward that to everybody so they can look at it,” Tandy-Sallee said.

The council moved on to the other proposed ordinances, voting down an amendment to R-1 Victorian Residential and R-2 Contemporary Residential. The council approved an ordinance amending C-1, C-2 and C-3 on a third and final reading, and approved a proposed ordinance amending the definition of a planned unit development on a first reading.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, at City Hall.

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