Snellville mayor, council members spar over planning nominees

SNELLVILLE - Mayor Jerry Oberholtzer opened Monday night's discussion concerning his appointments to Posts 1, 5 and 6 on Snellville's Planning Commission by admonishing council members to limit their discussion to his nominees, not the current post members.

Council member D. Warren Auld objected, saying Oberholtzer's demand was inappropriate. The mayor promptly overruled Auld's objection, and this exchange set the tone for the rest of the dialogue.

The mayor, in an interview last month with the Post, said he did not renominate Don Allen and John Desselle because others volunteered to serve on the panel that advises the council on rezonings and other land-use issues.

"I appreciate their service, but other folks asked and would like to volunteer so I'm giving them an opportunity," Oberholtzer said in June.

However, Oberholtzer said then, the list is not necessarily final and could change based on feedback from council members.

Still, some council members feared the issue, which one planning commissioner described as political payback, would result in a showdown between the mayor and council. Monday night that appeared the case.

Oberholtzer wants to reappoint Tod Warner, who he put on the Planning Commission two years ago, and add Chris Cook and Dave Foster.

Cook ran unsuccessfully for City Council last year; Foster is president of the Nob Hill Homeowners Association.

Oberholtzer appointed Snellville resident Cook to Post 1. Auld addressed the council and citizens in attendance saying, "Mr. Cook is an honorable man and a great asset to this city. However, I will not support him for this nomination." Auld explained his remark by reasoning that he felt the city needs "a continuity of experience on the planning commission. We should keep the man we have now."

Allen currently holds Post 1 on the commission. Auld continued, adding, "Several citizens have expressed their concern, which I share, that we do not have a long term plan for managing the growing traffic problem here in the city."

Oberholtzer replied that Allen had not been nominated for the post, and he turned his attention to Auld's comments regarding experience and lack of planning.

"You want to talk about wars? I've been around a long time, and I've seen them. And yes, we do have a plan," he said.

Councilman Robert Jenkins, addressing Oberholtzer, said, "I share (Auld's) sentiment. There's no substitute for experience."

The mayor then challenged Jenkins' knowledge of and attendance at planning commission meetings. The exchange continued until Oberholtzer warned Jenkins that he was out of order.

Councilman Bruce Garraway weighed in on the issue by saying that "this has been handled inappropriately by the leadership of this chair. The (current) post members did not know they were being let go. My vote is not against the nominees. It's against the way this was handled."

Cook's nomination was voted down 4-1, with Oberholtzer casting the only affirming vote.

The mayor's nominee for Post 5 was Foster. Auld remarked that, for the same reasons he gave for not supporting Cook, he would not support Foster. Again, the nomination was voted down 4-1.

Warner was Oberholtzer's nominee for Post 6, and that nomination was approved unanimously.

Oberholtzer will now have to renominate people for the council's consideration.

Other mayoral appointments approved

In a blanket vote, the nominees to the Board of Appeals, Personnel Advisory Board and Parks and Recreation Advisory Board were all unanimously approved.

Board of Appeals: Post 3 - Sid Parrott; Post 5 - Chuck Wood; Post 6 - Marcy Pharris Personnel Advisory Board: Post 1 - Richard Norton; Post 2 - George Zhookoff Parks and Recreation Advisory Board: Post 5 - Gail Deal; Post 6 - Paul Pierce

Council votes to adopt eminent domain resolution

By a vote of 4-1 (with Oberholtzer the only dissenting vote), council members agreed to adopt resolution 2005-09 concerning eminent domain. The resolution officially states the city's position, stating that private property can only be appropriated by the city for public purposes, not private. The recent Connecticut supreme court ruling, which allows for the appropriation of private property for private use, has stirred much debate nationwide regarding eminent domain.

"This ruling is to property rights what Roe v. Wade was to human rights," Jenkins said.

Oberholtzer said that he thought it would be wise to wait until the issue was addressed by the state legislature on the upcoming calendar, as advised by city attorney Thomas Mitchell.