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October 14, 2009 > Planning Commission Consent Calendar

Planning Commission Consent Calendar

By Dustin Findley

The Milpitas Planning Commission uses the consent calendar to place multiple agenda items to approve in one motion. There are instances where the Planning Commission will discuss items on the consent calendar separately. The commission discussed consent calendar procedure at the September 23 meeting.

The explanatory paragraph of the planning commission consent calendar reads:

"The Consent Calendar items are considered to be routine and will be considered with one public hearing, and adopted with one motion. There will be no separate discussion of these items unless a member of the Planning Commission, member of the audience, or staff request the Planning Commission to have an item removed from or added to the Consent Calendar.

"Any person desiring to speak on an item should ask to have the item removed from the consent calendar. If removed, this item will be discussed in the order in which it appears on the agenda."

The item was placed on the September 23 agenda at the request of the Planning Commission. Staff liaison Sheldon Ah Sing reported that regarding any legal requirements the adopted Planning Commission By-Laws do not provide any direction, as well as the recognized Robert's Rules of Order. Sing said it was up to the Planning Commission on this matter.

Staff suggested retaining consent calendar procedures as status quo. This lengthens time spent on items, and some audience members and project applicants see it as confusing and awkward, but it does provide the most opportunity for the public to address the Planning Commission.

Another option, staff reported, would be to use a one motion approach. This way the Planning Commission chair could provide a reasonable amount of time for people to comment on consent items up front, entertain a motion to open and close the public hearing and move approval of the consent items.

"Why should we even have a consent calendar if most of us, I believe, want to encourage as much public input as possible?" posed Commissioner Tiernan.

It's been his experience that those items that were considered consent calendar were so routine that staff did not think that there was going to be any public comment, and that the Planning Commission could move forward and dispose of those matters rather quickly.

However, what the Planning Commission has done, according to Tiernan, is treat items on the consent calendar as if they are regular agenda items. Tiernan believes the purpose of the consent calendar is in the opportunity to keep the flow of the meeting moving forward, especially when the agenda is full.

Commissioner Tabladillo said it should be up to the chair how to run the Planning Commission meeting. "There are no real legal requirements in terms of how we handle consent calendars." She stated that it is the purview of the chair, elected by the Planning Commission to help guide the commission and lead it through the process.

Tiernan wanted the Planning Commission to decide whether to consider consent calendar items individually or as a group, favoring no consent calendar so the public could comment on anything.

Chair Williams shared the historical perspective, stating long time residents know how the consent calendar works. The consent calendar is a great tool to expedite any public meeting proceedings.

Tabladillo stated her support for the process being necessarily and appropriately gray, up to the discretion of the chair and vice chair, and ultimately up to the community, who has yet to complain about the process.

Tiernan said seeking public input on each item of the consent calendar seems to defeat the purpose of the consent calendar.

The Planning Commission unanimously voted that the consent calendar, as part of the agenda, continue as a separate item with the explanatory paragraph underneath the heading, and the consent calendar items following the explanatory paragraph, and handle them separately or collectively at the chair's discretion.

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