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Carmel City Council looks at transparency for various boards and commissions

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It appears that a recent run-in with the Carmel Historic Preservation Commission might lead the Carmel City Council to want to have more communication with the organization.

In December, the council voted 4-3 to approve the Johnson Addition neighborhood becoming a conservation district, which would help maintain the historic feel of the area. This was the result of months of effort by the CHPC to draw boundary lines and encourage neighbors to sign petitions.

Finkam

Finkam

Mayor Jim Brainard vetoed the ordinance and so it ended up dying. The three councilors who opposed the conservation district – Ron Carter, Sue Finkam and Kevin “Woody” Rider – expressed the need to have better communication between the commission and the council in the future. Carter and Finkam drafted an ordinance that would require the CHPC to give reports to the council so no actions will catch anyone by surprise going forward.

The bill was discussed in the council’s finance committee on Jan. 15, but some councilors felt the proposed changes are just reactionary because some perceive a shadowy secrecy that doesn’t exist.

Councilor Carol Schleif, who serves on the CHPC, said the meetings are usually quite uneventful but she sees no reason why the council can’t hear quarterly presentations and also be sent monthly minutes from meetings. But she suggested that the CHPC shouldn’t be singled out and that other boards and commissions should also be included in these new rules for the sake of fairness.

“You have to do the same for everybody,” Schleif said.

Councilor Luci Snyder agreed and presented a list of groups that should give presentations or send their meeting minutes, such as boards and commissions dealing with the library, the parks department, telecommunications, economic development and more. Details are being hammered out, but Snyder said it’s important to expand these changes beyond just the CHPC. She said some groups are failing to report their meeting minutes right now.

The Carmel City Center Community Development Corporation, also known as the 4CDC, would likely not qualify for these changes since it is a non-profit organization which has many ties to local government, but isn’t an agency of the city.

In the proposed changes, it stated that the representative from the CHPC who gives the presentation can’t be a member of the City Council. Snyder and Schleif both serve on the commission and it was suggested that language could be removed in committee.

“I don’t see the benefit of not being a council person,” Councilor Eric Seidensticker said. “What does that have to do with anything?”

The finance committee asked Ashley Ulbricht, assistant city attorney, to consider their suggestions and draft new language which will be brought back to the committee for review in February.


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