The Royal Palm Beach Village Council has re-advertised for Planning & Zoning Commission applicants after a candidate selected for membership withdrew her application.
One position remains open after candidate Ana Martinez, an architect, declined her appointment, which came at the tail end of a discussion which featured a heated argument between Mayor Matty Mattioli and Councilwoman Martha Webster, then the liaison to the all-volunteer board.
Councilman Fred Pinto, appointed last month as the new liaison to the Planning & Zoning Commission, said he hopes to quickly get the board back on an even keel after a rocky few months.
Pinto told the Town-Crier that he disagrees with Webster’s assertion that the commission’s role is to help woo potential businesses.
“Their mission is a second-level technical review filter process for the council,” Pinto said. “They have a technical mission. It’s not their job to try to convince or try to sell somebody to come here, because that’s political. Their job is to do a review based on the merits of the application and how they apply to our codes and ordinances, architectural standards and requirements.”
Pinto said that applications start at the staff level, then go to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and finally are heard by the village council.
“The staff will look at it initially and, perhaps, recommend approval with five conditions,” Pinto said. “Then it can go to the Planning & Zoning Commission, and they can add additional requirements.”
By the time it gets to the council, the application might have a series of conditions from both staff and the board.
Pinto clarified that the first people a development applicant sees are staff and the village manager, not the zoning commission.
During a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting May 24, Pinto tried to explain his views regarding the commission’s role and his relationship as liaison.
“There seems to be a lot of confusion around that and a lot of inaccurate assumptions that were made about the role of the liaison,” Pinto said. “I explained to them that I’m their conduit to the council and from the council to them. I explained to them that my remarks to them that evening represent the views and wishes of the council, not my personal view.”
Pinto also told commissioners that when they review applications, they need to be professional and courteous with the applicants and residents, and not let emotions get in the way of their professionalism and skills in terms of evaluating the applications.
Pinto also told them that if they have a problem, he is the one to call, not the village manager or the staff. “If they have a concern, they should bring it to me, and I will get the right people involved,” Pinto said.
He also stressed that the commission must work in conjunction with — not in opposition to — village staff, and that they should expect the council to sometimes make a different decision than their recommendation.
“Our professional, full-time staff makes recommendations week in, week out, and I told them I don’t know what the batting average is, but maybe 50 to 60 percent of them get accepted and 40 to 50 percent, we go in a different direction. As elected officials, we have a hundred different variables that we take into consideration,” he said.
Pinto also pointed out that he makes note of split decisions and wants to get input of the minority and their concerns. “I made it clear to them that they are important, they do count, but they should not in any way, shape or form take it personally when recommendations from them get reversed,” he said.
The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the council chambers. Interested residents may pick up an application at the village clerk’s office or visit www.royalpalm beach.com, click on Government, then Boards & Committees and then Online Volunteer Board Application.
Completed applications must be returned to the village clerk’s office no later than noon Thursday, June 14 for council consideration at its meeting Thursday, June 21. Applicants will be subject to a background check. Call the village clerk at (561) 790-5102 for more information.