ZEPHYRHILLS — City leaders are expanding the size of the planning commission by two seats, tweaking the timetable for appointing members and for the first time allowing nonresidents to serve.
The City Council gave unanimous approval Monday night to the changes, which also include synchronizing the length of terms to match those of the council. Voters decided in April to extend council terms from two to three years and to have them staggered, which officials said will avoid the possibility of losing a majority of members in one election.
Appointments to the planning commission will now be made in June, rather than at random times throughout the year. Council members will fill six open seats at their next meeting June 24. The seventh seat will be permanently assigned to the mayor, who will chair the commission. At least four seats must be occupied by city residents, according to the new ordinance.
"We're not trying to clear the board," said City Manager Jim Drumm, explaining why all of the seats — with the exception of the mayor's — are open. "We're asking those who are currently serving to let us know if they wish to continue serving, either by submitting an application or sending an email."
In the past, council members have sometimes found it difficult to fill planning commission seats with qualified people, said council president Lance Smith. The planning commission is tasked with approving or denying requests for special permits relating to development or the city's zoning ordinances and making recommendations to the council on development-related issues.
"This helps widen the net," said Smith.
Council member Jodi Wilkeson agreed, saying the commission needs members with different backgrounds and professional experience.
The council has been modifying all of the city's other advisory boards — the airport, library and board of adjustments, for example — over the last couple of months, approving ordinance changes to bring the length of terms in line with those of the council and to set June as the month for appointing members.
Anyone wishing to serve on the planning commission, or any other advisory board, is welcome to fill out an application at City Hall or online at the city's website: ci.zephyrhills.fl.us.