Oakland Township’s controversial Planning Commission appointments

As reported previously on this website, there were three new Planning Commission appointments made at the August 12, 2014 Oakland Township Board meeting.  These three new appointments are in addition to two other recent appointments (Hein and Giannangeli).  There was considerable controversy over Supervisor Gonser’s nominees, but in the end, all three were appointed.  All were appointed though split decision votes.  The issues raised were:

  • Appointing a non-resident to the commission
  • Appointing a builder and real estate broker to the commission
  • Lack of planning experience on Commission, with 5 new commission members, as Township begins Master Planning process
  • Lack of geographic diversity – 5 of 7 commissioners are now from the Southwest quadrant of Township
  • Lack of age diversity
  • Lack of gender diversity
  • Concern over Gonser’s yet undisclosed ‘goals’ for his Master Plan ‘vision’
  • Concern that some of the individuals appointed “are going to do something for him (Gonser)”
  • Appointing an individual that admitted not having the time to fulfill his previous responsibilities as a Tax Board of Appeals member
  • Lack of using a robust selection process 

These concerns were raised by several Board members as well as concerned citizens, yet the majority of the Board approved Gonser’s nominees.

Planning Commission Chairperson, Jim Carter, made several recommendations for the Board to consider before making any appointments.  He indicated that these had previously been communicated to Supervisor Gonser.  He read the statutory requirements for the Board’s appointments to the Planning Commission.  Here are his recommendations:

  • Experience – consider reappointment of current commissioners since Township Master Plan is under review and there are already two inexperienced Planning Commission members
  • Training – nominees should attend state sponsored Planning Commission training
  • Geographic diversity – have representation from all quadrants of Township
  • Gender diversity – include women for appointment
  • Age diversity – include range of ages

Jim concluded by stating:

“New candidates are being considered as a result of the Supervisor’s desire to his stated goal of ‘Going in a new direction’.  Please consider the qualifications based on good Planning rather than political motivations.”

Danny Beer nomination

Supervisor Gonser nominated Danny Beer, who is NOT a resident of Oakland Township, but owns Lyon Gear in the Southwest Quadrant of the Township.

Treasurer Langlois stated:

“Until we have exhausted every avenue for putting a resident on the Planning Commission, we do not need to look outside the Township.”

Trustee Bailey concurred.

During Citizen comments on this appointment, Frank Ferriolo stated:

“This appointment is the antitheses of what . . .  how this Planning Commission should be placed.”

“This representation of an overweighted section of the Southwest is incredible.”

“He (Gonser) obviously has a ‘goal’ here. Some of the people that he is appointing are going to do something FOR him.”

Reg Brown, a resident that had taken a 7 week class on Planning at his own expense, stated:

“I previously asked (the Board) that Mr. Carter (PC chair) present a summary of people who are currently on the Planning Commission so the Ordinance can be complied with. For some reason, that has never been done.  I think more work is needed on this.”

The vote for filling this position was then taken.  Danny Beer was appointed by a 4 to 3 vote.  Gonser, Reilly, Thalmann and Giannangeli voted in support.  Buxar, Bailey and Langlois voted against the appointment.

Gary Kwapis nomination

Supervisor Gonser nominated , Gary Kwapis, an Architect who lives in the Southwest quadrant of the Township to replace Barbara Wolak.

Janine Saputo (one of only two women on previous PC) reiterated the recommendations made by Chair Jim Carter, and asked the Board consider reappointment of Barbara Wolak to the Planning Commission.

During citizen comments, Frank Ferriolo stated:

“We are looking at a Master Plan going forward where we need HISTORY.  Look at what you are creating.”

Reg Brown stated:

“Experience is valuable!”

Trustee Buxar expressed concern over the makeup of the Commission:

“Five of seven members live in the Southwest quadrant of Township.”

Treasure Langlois stated:

“Right now between the 6 sitting Planning Commission members we do have representation from all four quadrants of the Township.  That will drop to two, and we will have five (with Gonser’s other nominee included) from one, one from another, and one from outside the Township.  THAT IS NOT BALANCED TO ME!”

She went on to say:

“Having been on the Planning Commission briefly, I think Planning Commission experience is valuable.  I would have grave concerns about a Planning Commission with very little Planning Commission experience.”

Langlois did say that she would support Gary, but would not vote for another person from the Southwest Quadrant of the Township.

The vote for filling this position was then taken.  Gary Kwapis was appointed by a 5 to 2 vote. Gonser, Reilly, Thalmann, Langlois and Giannangeli voted in support.  Buxar and Bailey voted against the appointment.

Anthony Scaccia nomination

Supervisor Gonser nominated, Anthony Scaccia, a Builder and Real Estate Broker who lives in the Southwest quadrant of the Township to replace Roger Shultze.  Anthony is also currently an appointee to the Tax Board of Review. After his introduction, Anthony admitted that he was not able to ‘focus fully’ on his responsibilities on the Tax Board of Review because his clients were ‘trying to reach him’ during the reviews.

Here are Anthony’s comments:

“It has been very difficult  for me to focus fully on what I have been doing at the Board of Review because it was happening during the daytime hours when I have a lot of clients trying to reach me.”

He went on to say that he wanted to support the Township, but on a different Board “when I would not have to be available during the day.”

Treasurer Langlois commented:

“The business he conducts in the Township would put….there would be a number of instances where he would have to recuse himself from something, or there would be the appearance that his vote or decisions were based on his business, and I don’t think we need that in the Township.”

Trustee Bailey said:

“As a former Planning Commission member for 20 years, I must say that I do object to having a Planning Commissioner where his day job is being a builder… Their point of view is going to be biased……”

Resident Frank Ferriolo commented that the Planning Commission is going to be ‘out of balance’.  He went on to say that the only time he has seen Mr. Scaccia at Township meetings is after Gonser asked Scaccia if he would consider being appointed to the Township Board (McKay replacement) or Planning Commission (Roger Shultze replacement).

The vote for filling this position was then taken.  Anthony Scaccia was appointed by a 4 to 3 vote. Gonser, Reilly, Thalmann and Giannangeli voted in support. Langlois, Buxar and Bailey voted against the appointment.

The Planning Commission is now populated with 5 new Gonser appointments.  Danny Beer does not live in the Township, but his business is in the Southwest quadrant of the Township.

Here is a map showing where the previous Planning Commission members lived: (click on map to enlarge)

Previous PC representation

Here is a map showing where the current Planning Commission members live: (click on map to enlarge)

New PC represetation

 

Clearly the Planning Commission no longer has the geographic diversity that Planning Commission Chair Carter had requested.  In fact, Jim Carter’s recommendations fell on ‘deaf ears’.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Gonser has stated he wants to take the Planning Commission in a ‘new direction’.  He has not publicly stated what his ‘vision’ is, however, he has told Planning Commissioner Ron Hein that he intends to provide the Planning Commission with ‘strategic direction’ to use in formulating our new Township Master Plan.  The Master Plan has historically been a ‘bottoms up’, citizen input process.  Gonser will now make this a ‘top down’ process.

Gonser now has five members of the Commission that may fulfill Frank Ferriolo prediction:

“He (Gonser) obviously has a ‘goal’ here. Some of the people that he is appointing are going to do something FOR him.”

The citizens of Oakland Township need to get involved in the Master Planning process so it does not become “Gonser’s Plan” based on input from builders, and real estate brokers.  Your input is critical!

One final point.  I was a member of the Tax Board of Review in the 80’s.  I was also a member of the Planning Commission for over 26 years.  Anthony Scaccia’s assumption that the Planning Commission appointment will be less demanding of time is not based on fact.  His appointment to the Commission not only violates the appearance of a conflict of interest, but raises questions why the Board would have appointed someone who has already demonstrated that he cannot commit the time to a previously appointed position.

Richard Michalski

Here are some related articles:

Supervisor Gonser attempts to influence Planning Commission’s Master Plan

Supervisor Gonser demonstrates his lack of knowledge of Oakland Township Zoning

Did Supervisor Gonser try to mislead the citizens, or was he ignorant of the facts?

Supervisor Gonser’s REAL views on trails, pathways, bike paths and environmental protection

Preferential treatment of large land owners

Are you a “subdivision rat”? Supervisor Gonser expresses his opinion!

Here is a video or the Board meeting discussions described above:

 

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