Santa Paula Times

Council to decide Planning Commission appointments Monday

June 24, 2003
Santa Paula City Council

The City Council will decide on Planning Commission applicants on June 16th, after holding interviews on Monday.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe City Council will decide on Planning Commission applicants on June 16th, after holding interviews on Monday.Planning Commission incumbents David Johnson and Gerald Schmidt joined applicants Jesse Ornelas, Alfonso Ramirez and John Turturro in the interviews.The council has shifted gears on the Planning Commission appointment process: in the past the council would interview applicants and then render a decision. The council decided to delay the appointments for a week so they can consider interview answers.Several supporters spoke on behalf of Ornelas: “Jesse is very well qualified for this position,” said Ofelia de la Torre. “He is the senior project manager at Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation and knows all the facets of being a planning commissioner.”Robert Borrego noted that in years past planning commissioners were appointed that were considered unqualified. “Much to my pleasant surprise they have done admirably, but it is time for new commissioners.”“We have new council members, a new city manager, new financial director. . .I think its in good harmony to bring in new planning commissioners to unite this vision that we all have in bettering our community,” said Jess Victoria.Mike Miller, also a CEDC employee, agreed: “I’ve seen him in action,” and Ornelas’ experience would be an asset.Johnson, the owner of a kitchen/bath design center, told the council that his experience as a commissioner has “been a learning experience. . .I understand the city far more than I did four-and-a-half years ago, the good, the bad and the ugly.”Ornelas noted his “hands-on knowledge” of land issues, the city’s General Plan and Housing Element, the “essential components of the toolbox of the planning commission.”
Santa Paula native Ramirez said his “expertise is construction,” a nice fit for the duties of the commission. “I’ve very familiar with construction,” and related issues, such as planning.Schmidt, a designer, said his seven years of commission duty has been a “great experience” and the commission has worked well and productively together. “It’s very important to cover all the bases and in design, I’ve done so for a long time.”His experience in architecture and design would benefit the commission, said business owner Turturro, who heads the architecture/design program at Ventura College. “I was urged to step forward and throw my hat in the ring.”Council members asked the applicants everything from the duties of commissioners to how they would respond to a developer asking for a meeting to if and when ordinances should be tweaked.Johnson said he seeks quality development to “provide a benefit to citizens of Santa Paula for a long time to come. . .once something is built, it’s going to be here a long time.”“I would be happy,” to meet with a potential developer to discuss plans, said Ornelas, but “I would not promise him anything. . .if I did that I would have to disqualify myself down the road.”“I would tell a developer he has to bring plans to staff,” said Ramirez. “It would not be right to meet with him individually.”Quality of life issues, such as traffic and the needs of children, are critical, said Schmidt. “If it would make something better by changing or voiding a code or make it worse is not a decision I would take without great thought.”Flexibility is important when it comes to projects that do not meet all zoning requirements especially when dealing with historic buildings, said Turturro. “You can’t always provide handicapped accessibility and parking,” and with the city’s mix of older buildings the commission “must be flexible.”