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Taylorsville Planning Commission has new look

Mar 12, 2018 05:10PM ● Published by Carl Fauver

New leadership for the Taylorsville Planning Commission includes Chairwoman Lynette Wendel (R) and Vice Chair John Warnas (L). Between them is Anna Barbieri, now the commission’s longest serving member. (Taylorsville City)

The Taylorsville Planning Commission is proving to be a good training ground for city residents who aspire to serve as mayor or a councilmember. Kristie Overson first entered politics on the planning commission, ran and won twice for city council and is now the city’s sixth mayor.

Her November election left Overson’s Council District 2 seat vacant, until the other council members selected Curt Cochran — from a field of nine candidates — to fill the remaining two years in the term of office.

He, too, jumped from the Taylorsville Planning Commission to the city council and was the commission chairman at the time he left.

Now Cochran’s departure — along with a commission retirement and a move out of state — has left the body that deals primarily with land development issues and conditional use permits, filling a lot of seats.

“The planning commission is made up of seven members and one alternate,” said Taylorsville Community Development Director Mark McGrath. “The members represent each of the five city council districts along with two at-large positions. The members are paid a small stipend ($40 per meeting) and can put in some long hours once in a while.”

The Taylorsville Planning Commission meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month. If there is a heated issue, the meetings can sometimes run past 1 a.m., often with a few raised voices along the way.

“The meetings can be passionate at times; people care about their property and their neighborhoods,” McGrath said. “Things like approving day care applications or storage unit construction can get people pretty excited.”

Lynette Wendel wouldn’t have it any other way. Wendel and her husband moved to Utah 23 years ago — having never been to this end of the state before — and have “never looked back.”

“We moved into a Taylorsville apartment in 1995,” she said. “We quickly liked it so much, we made sure the first home we moved into (1997) and our second home (2006) — the one we’re in now — were still in the city. Prior to moving here, our only stop in Utah had been a visit to Zion National Park.”

Wendel joined the city planning commission in November 2014. With Cochran’s departure, she was elected commission chairwoman in January. With one seat still to fill on the commission, she said anyone who wants to help the community grow should apply.

“It’s not a huge time commitment, and the work is very rewarding,” Wendel said. “Passions sometimes run high at public hearings, but if you are open-minded and can accept other people’s ideas when they make sense, you’ll do fine.”

Whoever is selected to replace Cochran on the planning commission won’t be the only newcomer. Kent Burggraf and Justin Peterson were also recently appointed, Peterson as the alternate.

They were named to replace Noah Bater and Garl Fink. The former pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Taylorsville, Bater recently moved to California. And after 11 years on the commission, senior member Fink retired from the commission in December.

“I served on the planning commission with (Mayor) Kristie (Overson) and with (Councilman) Curt (Cochran),” Fink said. “They were both very qualified, and I know they’ll be great in their new positions.”

Fink, 71, said he was ready to step down, but his housing plans also forced the issue.

“My son and two daughters are all out of the house now, and my wife and I are building a smaller home,” Fink added. “It kind of breaks my heart to leave Taylorsville, but our building lot is in Murray, so that’s where we’ll be in a few months.”

Only Taylorsville City residents are eligible to serve on the planning commission.

Other current members of the Taylorsville Planning Commission include new Vice Chairman John Warnas, the now-longest serving member Anna Barbieri, along with Ric Morley and Don Quigley.

Both Fink and Wendel pointed out their planning commission duties are made much easier thanks to McGrath along with the city planners and staff who work with him.

“Mark McGrath is an exceptional leader,” Fink said. “He’s so knowledgeable; I learned so much from him. He knows so much about city ordinances and codes. It made our jobs much easier.”

Wendel added, “We are losing a lot of years of experience from the planning commission with these changes. But I’m not concerned about it, because Mark (McGrath) and his staff are fantastic. They provide us with such well-researched information and also offer us lots of great training, where we learn more about being effective. You couldn’t ask for a better staff.”

Anyone interested in joining the Taylorsville City Planning Commission is encouraged to speak with a current member — or his or her city council member — to learn more about it.

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