Defiance voters will be asked to decide four charter amendments this fall.
The five-member charter review commission held its fifth and final meeting Tuesday, and agreed to recommend four changes to Defiance City Hall’s governing document, approved by voters in 1983, with implementation in 1984. The recommendations will be made on July 9 to city council, which must place them on the ballot in November.
The commission — tasked with reviewing the charter every five years — reviewed the document’s eight articles dealing with municipal governance during four previous meetings.
Three of the proposed changes are largely language updates (for sections 2.07, 3.03 and 4.04), while the most significant (in sections 7.02 and 7.03) would combine the city’s planning commission, and board of zoning and building appeals.
The planning commission now has seven members and considers proposals generally related to business projects, such as site plan reviews for new developments. The board of zoning and building appeals now has five members, and generally considers zoning issues, such as variances for residential building projects.
Mayor Mike McCann suggested the change during the commission’s June 4 meeting, noting that combining the two boards would move things along quicker for developers.
Commission member Bob Armstrong — the city’s former three-term mayor — said he wondered if seven members on the new board would be sufficient, but he did not press the matter. As for the change, Armstrong believes it a good idea, as do other commission members.
Voters may have to wade through some considerable verbiage with the proposed amendment as it would essentially lay out functions of a brand new board, although it will handle many familiar tasks.
The proposed amendment — provided Tuesday by City Law Director Sean O’Donnell — states that the commission will have “at least seven members” with the mayor, city administrator and parks board chairman having four-year terms. Four other positions will be appointed by the mayor, and reserved for “citizens” who are “qualified electors” and residents of Defiance.
Concerning the four citizen members, none can hold municipal office or be employed by the city government, and they will have staggered terms to begin, but thereafter they will serve — like the mayor, city administrator and parks board chairman — for four-year terms.
The makeup and structure of the new board is the same as now exists in charter Sec. 7.02 for the planning commission.
Charter Sec. 7.03 — concerning the board of zoning and building appeals — would be eliminated, if the amendment is approved in November.
The three other proposed amendments would:
• strike the word (political) “party” from Sec. 2.07 concerning changes in council’s compensation. A charter amendment approved by voters in 2014 — following the last charter review — made all council seats non-partisan.
• adjust Sec. 3.03 concerning the timeline for a change in the mayor’s pay.
At present, the charter states that any change by council in the mayor’s pay “shall be made ... not later than the first day of January immediately preceding the commencement of a new term of office of the mayor.”
Council recently approved a pay raise for the mayor’s position, but due to this language, the raise won’t take effect until 2024.
While that schedule will be preserved if the amendment passes, the change would allow future mayoral raises approved by council to begin sooner. The new language would state that any change by council in the mayor’s pay “shall be made by council not later than the first day of January of the commencement of a new term of office of the mayor.”
• replace the word “percentage” with the word “number” in Sec. 4.04 concerning petition requirements for nominations and elections.
While the charter now states that “the percentage of electors required to sign any petition provided for herein shall be based upon the total vote cast at the last preceding general municipal election,” the proposed amendment stipulates that “the number of electors required to sign any petition provided for herein shall be based upon the total vote cast at the last preceding general municipal election.”
A fifth possible charter amendment — to Sec. 3.05 concerning the mayor’s appointment of the administrator, law director and finance director with the “advice and consent” of a council majority — was discussed, but not brought forward.
The commission had considered an amendment that would require a “vote” of the majority of council, but members felt this change could be handled through council’s procedural rules.
As the meeting concluded, commission chairman Charles Beard — council’s former president who presided over two other charter reviews — expressed his appreciation to the other four commission members (Armstrong, Katie Groff-Held, Darrell Handy and Chris Mack) for their service.