Planning Commission reaches new heights in 2018, now with new leadership
Feb 07, 2019 02:15PM
By Carl Fauver
Taylorsville Community Development Director Mark McGrath and former Planning Commission Chairwoman Lynette Wendel worked together on several successful commission projects in 2018. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
At the deadline for this story, the new chairperson for the Taylorsville City Planning Commission had not yet been elected. But as you read this, that person is now in place.
So, the “who” was not known a deadline time, but the “what” certainly was. What the new commission chairperson for 2019 has to do is fill big shoes and keep a professional, aggressive, forward-thinking strategy alive.
“Our Planning Commission members really stepped to the plate (in 2018), and it was certainly one of the most active and effective commissions we have had,” said Taylorsville Community Development Director Mark McGrath. “Commission members receive a small stipend. They are mostly volunteers. And last year, they did so much on behalf of city residents.”
This is high praise from the commission’s primary support staff member and someone who has worked with the planning commission for 25 years.
Among their 2018 accomplishments, members of the commission took advantage of more educational opportunities, attended more regional planning meetings and initiated further opportunities for growth with another planning commission (Herriman).
Which, of course, all leads to the burning question: “Who cares?” McGrath says Taylorsville taxpayers should.
“This active and aggressive effort to become better trained as planning commission members serves the public in two ways,” McGrath explained. “First — the obvious one — it makes them better at their jobs. It helps train them to make better land use decisions that should make our city more attractive and livable.”
But he added, the second benefit is even more important to the bottom line.
“As commission members attend various planning meetings, they establish an important presence for Taylorsville,” McGrath said. “Groups quickly learn our city is serious about making improvements and getting things done. And these groups have access to many federal grant opportunities. The more our planning commission members make this effort, the more it improves our chances of bringing in outside money for various projects. That’s why Taylorsville taxpayers should care.”
Two of the primary “movers and shakers” in this effort to become a better-trained planning commission were last year’s chairwoman Lynette Wendel and the group’s longest-tenured member, Anna Barbieri. For starters, they audited and attended a University of Utah course on city planning, taught jointly by McGrath and his counterpart in Herriman, Michael Maloy.
“It was an excellent course that really helped educate us on things that can be done in cities — particularly in built out cities like (Taylorsville) — to better serve residents,” Barbieri said. “And the class also prompted us to put together the joint meeting and training session with the Herriman Planning Commission.”
Last fall, Taylorsville Planning Commission members — and a couple of city council people — toured Herriman, to observe effective uses of public space. Afterward, the groups heard a presentation by McGrath and were given a nationally recognized book about effective city planning. A month later, the two groups reconvened to discuss the book.
“Those were very beneficial meetings, and I know we are already talking about doing something similar in 2019 with the Millcreek City Planning Commission,” Barbieri said.
At this point, her proper title may be commission chairwoman Barbieri. At press deadline, she was planning to volunteer her name for the post. Barbieri previously served as the chair in 2015.
“I think we accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in 2018,” Wendel said during her final few days in the position. “I just wanted to see the Planning Commission become more proactive and less reactive to issues. In order to do that, I think members need to pursue as much professional training as possible. It has been a fulfilling year.”
As Wendel leaves her post, Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson, who spent six years on the planning commission herself, is among those singing Lynette’s praises.
“They did an incredible job learning the needs of our community and acting in our citizens’ best interest,” Overson said. “I love the idea that Taylorsville is creating a presence at community planning meetings throughout the valley. The planning commission makes many crucial decisions — about things like zoning codes and special use permits — which impact people in a direct way. This group, under Lynette’s leadership, worked hard to learn everything it could to make those decisions effectively.”
City Councilman Brad Christopherson concurred.
“As a municipal legal adviser, I have worked with a lot of planning commissions along the Wasatch Front,” he said. “I would stack our commission up against any of them. Lynette (Wendel) has done a great job as chair, and the entire commission has stretched and grown to become more influential in what the city is doing.”