Tensions over Prairie Village Mayor Ron Shaffer’s appointments to the Prairie Village Planning Commission reemerged Monday as a group of more recently elected City Councilors protested the reappointment of two long-serving commissioners, both of whom voted in favor of the controversial Mission Chateau development.
Debate over the appointments began when Ward 1 Councilor Ashley Weaver, first elected in 2012, asked to have the appointments of Nancy Wallerstein, a former City Councilor and Shaffer ally, and Bob Lindeblad removed from the consent agenda for further discussion.
“I believe that the nominees have proven themselves to be at odds with the vast majority of Prairie Village residents,” Weaver said. “I will not be supporting their appointments.”
“Well, that is your opinion,” Shaffer replied.
The move set off a lengthy discussion about the role of the Planning Commission, the value of experience on city committees, the length of committee terms and the process via which the city appoints members to all of its committees.
Weaver’s assertion that Wallerstein and Lindeblad didn’t represent the views of a majority of Prairie Village residents drew a rebuke from Ward 3 Councilor Andrew Wang, who argued that residents in his ward were not clearly in favor or against the Mission Chateau project.
Both Wang and Ward 2 Councilor Ruth Hopkins pointed out that the Planning Commission’s legal role is to vet development applications based on the city’s zoning requirements and construction ordinances — not to vote simply on whether they like or dislike a particular application or use.
“It seems to me that by not reappointing these candidates, it would be some kind of punishment for a vote that some people didn’t like,” Hopkins said. “The Planning Commission is not put in place to do what certain residents want. It is there to look at the merits of a project based on the city’s standards and how it fits into our zoning regulations.”
But others argued that the community divide over Mission Chateau was so strong that the reappointment of Wallerstein and Lindeblad to a new three-year term would send a negative message to residents already displeased with the city.
“Right or wrong, I’ve heard from a lot of people who have very hard feelings,” said Ward 4 Councilor Laura Wassmer. “I think it’s worth thinking about whether we should look to have people on the commission who don’t have baggage, for lack of a better term.”
Several councilors rose concerns about the lengthy tenure of volunteers to several city committees, pointing out that dozens of residents submit applications to serve but aren’t given the opportunity.
“We’ve become a closed city if we don’t provide opportunities for others to serve,” said Ward 1 Councilor Jori Nelson.
In the end, the council voted 10-1 to table the nominations of all 20 mayoral appointments to city committees with the intent to thoroughly review all volunteer applications and determine if there are applicants who have not served before who might be suited for an appointment. Ward 2 Councilor Steve Noll voted against the resolution. Hopkins abstained.
Under city ordinance, both Wallerstein and Lindeblad will continue to serve on the Planning Commission until they are formally reappointed or the council votes to appoint new commissioners to their seats. Earlier this month, Ward 4 Councilor Brooke Morehead raised questions about the appointments of two new Planning Commissionn nominees, Larry Levy and James Breneman, who were appointed after Shaffer broke a 6-6 council vote.
The full list of committee nominees whose appointments were tabled Monday follows:
- Animal Control Board, James Dinesen
- Animal Control Board, Richard Webber
- Board of Code Appeals, Dick Kaufman
- BZA/Planning Commission, Nancy Wallerstein
- BZA/Planning Commission, Bob Lindeblad
- Communications Committee, John Wilinski
- Communications Committee, Michael Arrandale-Arnold
- Communications Committee, Susan Giffin
- Environment/Recycle, Karin McAdams
- Environment/Recycle, Benjamin Claypool
- Environment/Recycle, Penny Mahon
- Park & Recreation, Diane Mares
- Park & Recreation, Eric Blevins
- Prairie Village Arts Council, Lindsay Ridder
- Prairie Village Arts Council, T. Truss Tyson
- Sister City Committee, Robert Glywa
- Sister City Committee, Peter Jarosewycz
- Sister City Committee, Ivan Novikov
- Tree Board, Greg VanBooven
- Tree Board, Deborah Nixon