A chance to start fresh

Published 9:23 pm Saturday, February 7, 2009

Following discussions at several meetings, the Suffolk City Council has lit upon a solution to the problem of its unwieldy Planning Commission. The 14-member group will be abolished and then re-formed with only eight members in time for the group’s regular July meeting.

It is a plan that has been in the making since last year and one that has developed through several permutations.

Starting over fresh was an early suggestion, but that plan seemed to fall out of favor during a council retreat last month, when some council members — including Curtis Milteer — suggested a phased approach. Under that strategy, the commission would dwindle in size over a period of years, as various members’ terms ran out, eventually reaching the eight-member level that would mirror the makeup of the City Council.

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Upon further review, though, Milteer realized such an approach would leave some of the city’s boroughs with a lower level of representation than others, and he called for the city to pursue its original clean-slate plan for the commission.

Some council detractors are sure to be suspicious of the new plan, and there are obvious drawbacks, not the least of which is the possibility of a Planning Commission with a complete lack of experience in land use matters.

However, the City Council can go a long way toward answering those objections by reappointing some or all of the commission’s most experienced and active members. In fact, choosing planners who will work together to make the group a vital, viable and effective advisory body has always been an important part of the job of city councilmen.

Given the current situation — and the need for an enlightened, careful approach to the city’s growth — that duty takes on even more importance in the coming months. Council members should think long and hard about the people they intend to put into the new positions.