The North Bend Eagle


Council asked to consider smaller planning commission

by Nathan Arneal
Published 6/28/17

In the process of reappointing people to North Bend’s planning commission, the idea of making the commission smaller was floated.

At the June 20 city council meeting, mayor Jeff Kluthe suggested the council look at reducing the planning commission from its current nine members to seven. He said a smaller board would be easier to fill and foster new ideas. Councilman Rod Scott asked why a smaller number would be better.

“If you want better ideas,” Scott said, “you just as well keep it at nine. You’ll have more ideas.”

Kluthe disagreed.

“You actually don’t,” the mayor said. “You have more people that follow one person that has an idea because they’re not interested enough.”

The planning commission is an advisory board appointed by the city council. The commission studies proposed changes to zoning ordinances, building codes, capital improvements and subdivision development and makes recommendations to the council. Four of the current members of North Bend’s planning commission are former city council members.

In recent times, the commission and the city council have not always seen eye to eye. In June of last year, the planning commission unanimously recommended against changing a few lots in a residential area from residential zoning to commercial. At the time, some council members expressed their disappointment and said they would vote to go against the commission’s recommendation. The proposed ordinance was abandoned before a vote was taken when the land in question was sold to a different owner.

Kluthe said the planning commission needs some new blood.

“I’m looking for the long term of North Bend,” he said, “of having people with better ideas, instead of looking at a paper and saying, ‘This is what we’ve done for 12 and 20 years. I don’t like changing it.’ I want somebody to come in and have ideas.”

Council member Emily Kirschenmann said they have a hard time getting people to show up at the planning commission as it is.

“If we would make it smaller, we would have to make sure they would be very dedicated,” Kirschenmann said. “It seems like a lot of the time the e-mail notice goes out the week before the meeting and half of them can’t make it.”

City clerk Theresa Busse said while they always have at least a quorum of five to hold the meetings, which happen a minimum of four times a year. Busse said she is against reducing the size of the commission.

“In defense of them, you have a zoning book for a reason,” Busse said, “just like we have an ordinance book. You have rules. Just because someone comes in and asks to do something, you don’t change the rules just to make them happy. It’s not for an individual. (If you change the rules) then everyone in town can use that change.”

In response to a request from Kirschenmann, Busse said she would contact other clerks in towns North Bend’s size and ask how big their planning commission is.

Kluthe said he is fine with whatever the council decides to do.

“I’m fine either way,” Kluthe said. “I’m looking at the future. Times are changing. We’ve got to get people to change.”

Councilman Tom Mullally moved to reappoint Gary Widhelm, Tom Johnson and Rick Hobza to their positions on the planning commission. With Bill Leftwich stepping down, there is one vacant seat on the commission. Other members include Lon Bohling, Ken Streff, Alex Legge, Mark Johnson and Duane Ellermeier.

The motion was approved 3-0, with councilman Bart Bosco absent. The council will work on coming up with someone to fill the ninth spot.

In other council business:

• Jane Mehaffey, representing the East Central Reading Council, asked the council if it would be OK with the placment of a little free library in North Bend, a box where people can take and leave books. The council was fine with it and they will ask librarian Amy Reznicek about where to put it.

• Kirschenmann was appointed as the city’s representative to the Council of Officials for Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District.

• Appointed to the city’s board of health was Kluthe, Kirschenmann, Sheriff Steve Hespen and Larry Kisby. The appointment of the city emergency manager was tabled.


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