Chamber director named to city planning board
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
March 11, 2011 · Updated 3:30 PM
Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Director Jill Johnson will now be weighing in on future land-use issues.
Mayor Jim Slowik appointed Johnson to fill a seat on the Oak Harbor Planning Commission and the decision was confirmed by the city council Tuesday evening in a 6-1 vote. She will take the place of Julie Dale, who resigned.
The planning commission is a seven-member advisory body that makes recommendations to the city council on certain types of development projects and on changes to the city’s land use policies. Commissioners serve a term of three years.
The only person to vote against Johnson’s appointment was City Councilman Scott Dudley. He voiced concerns about a possible conflict of interest due to the city’s annual $80,000 payment of hotel-motel tax money to the chamber.
“It raises an eyebrow, it raises a question,” Dudley said.
His objection was not shared. City Councilman Rick Almberg said he didn’t recognize a conflict, as the planning commission is advisory only, while Beth Munns said the issue was moot because Johnson is answerable to a board of directors, not the city.
“It’s not like we’re paying her to be heard at the chamber,” Munns said.
Several other city council members, including Bob Severns, Jim Palmer, and Danny Paggao, all said they trusted Johnson to recuse herself should any potential conflict arise.
In a later interview, Johnson said she’s been asking to be on the planning commission for years and was grateful to finally get her wish. While their decisions are only advisory, she believes they are still vitally important.
“The planning level is where you get to shape the direction of the community,” she said.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.