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Newport council holds off on Planning Commission appointment

After the mayor sought hurried appointment for Banning Ranch review, legal issues halted replacing the commission chairman.

November 30, 2011|By Mike Reicher

Because of state law, the Newport Beach City Council will have to wait until mid-December to appoint a planning commissioner.

Mayor Mike Henn had wanted to rush an appointee through at this week's meeting, but at least one council watcher raised the legal issue and the city council decided on Tuesday to postpone the vote.

The postponement comes as the Planning Commission prepares to deliberate on the Banning Ranch environmental impact report (EIR).

Henn said he wanted fill the vacancy quickly so that the new commissioner could begin working on Banning Ranch issues immediately, but others on the council argued there was not enough urgency to shortcut the regular process.

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"The whole idea is to give everybody a chance to participate," said Councilman Steve Rosansky, who voted against the hurried appointment. "If you just rush it right through, people think you're trying to trick them or hide something."

Council watcher Jim Mosher spoke against the rushed appointment, and suggested that Henn was trying to appoint local developer Larry Tucker before other people had a chance to apply for the commission.

Tucker works for Baker Ranch, a co-developer of a 380-acre property in Lake Forest that is very similar to the proposed 400-acre Banning Ranch development.

Henn said Tucker would have special knowledge to contribute to the Banning deliberations.

Tucker was also a planning commissioner in the early 2000s and has been involved in citizen boards and commissions since then.

Planning commissioners have already reviewed Banning Ranch's draft EIR and are expected to see the final report in January.

That leaves enough time to appoint someone using the city's regular process, argued Councilwomen Nancy Gardner and Leslie Daigle, who voted against the rushed process. On Tuesday, the vote was 4 to 3 in favor of holding the appointment on Dec. 13. This would satisfy state law, but it would cut out the city's usual step of creating a subcommittee to review applications.

State law mostly mirrors the City Council's regular procedure and requires at least 10 working days between the city's official announcement of the vacancy and the appointment vote, unless there is an emergency.

The deadline for submitting applications to the Planning Commission was also extended to Dec 7.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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