Rundel resigns from Planning Commission in wake of CUP flap

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ken Rundel, who was a commissioner on the Eureka Springs Planning/BOZA Commission, has resigned. His resignation follows a furor over an application for a Conditional Use Permit for a weekly rental property at 10 Alamo St. by owners Joe and Melissa Greene, who also serves on Planning.

The application was denied by Planning at its Jan. 8 meeting. Currently four votes are required to approve a CUP application; with Greene recusing herself due to conflict of interest, that left only four voting members at the table. Rundel voted against the application, and it failed.

At its Jan. 14 meeting, the ES City Council heard Greene's appeal and voted to approve the application.

Rundel said his vote against the application had nothing to do with the Greenes nor the property itself.

"I voted against the CUP at our Planning Commission meeting because, in the last day or two before the Public Hearing was scheduled, I had received numerous emails and phone calls from folks in the neighborhood who were all opposed to the CUP," Rundel said in a letter to the Citizen. "They felt it would negatively impact their neighborhood. At the commission meeting I attempted to read those emails but was not allowed to do so because of hearsay rules."

Rundel said the city code calls for the Planning commissioners to discuss and consider several items after the public hearing, which had occurred at the beginning of the Planning meeting. "We don't just take a tally of the 'votes' cast by those who speak at the hearing," he said, quoting from section 14.08.08. The factors to be considered should include "the existing land use pattern in the neighborhood," "whether the proposed change will adversely influence property values or living conditions in the neighborhood," "whether the proposed use is in harmony with the character of the neighborhood," and that the commission must grant or deny the CUP "within a reasonable time" after the public hearing.

At both meetings, Greene argued she had met all the requirements for the CUP, including the legal obligation to notify all neighbors within 200 feet, and that only one neighbor in that area had objected.

Rundel responded that other commissioners "kept insisting we only need concern ourselves with folks within 200 feet of 10 Alamo. But the code specifically uses the word 'neighborhood' here, not '200 feet' and not 'adjacent property.'"

He added, "I based my vote not on any 'private agenda,' as was alleged at the council meeting, but on my perception of the sentiment in the neighborhood. I twice tried to table this matter for a scant two weeks until our next meeting, so commissioners could all get a better perspective on what the people think who will be most affected by this CUP -- the neighbors."

In Rundel's letter, he said he respected those currently sitting on the Planning Commission and did not suspect them of having any 'private agendas,' though he continued to "strongly disagree" with their vote on the matter. "They are good, public-spirited citizens volunteering to do this work for the city, especially Chairperson Blankenship," he said. However...[t]his is not supposed to be a rubber-stamp deal...But don't the signatures of 28 people [in the larger neighborhood] who will be most affected by this decision and who were all opposed to the CUP mean anything?"

The next Planning meeting will be Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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