Sterlington Mayor Caesar Velasquez and Town Councilman Matt Talbert, at left.jpg

The Sterlington Town Council discussed removing members from the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission in light of a dispute between town officials over a recent variance.

Last month, the Town Council agreed to grant a 20-year variance, or exception to the town’s building ordinances, to local businessman Greg Wilson so he could use metal siding in the construction of new shops on U.S. Hwy 165.

Town Council member Matt Talbert — who abstained from the vote on Wilson’s variance — raised the possibility of further disputes with the Planning and Zoning Commission during the Town Council’s regular meeting.

The Planning and Zoning Commission previously approved Wilson’s variance before punting it to the Town Council for a second vote, but the commission’s members were upset when the Town Council granted the variance, according to town officials.

“A couple of those guys were upset that we had passed a variance,” Talbert said.

Town Council member Ron Hill suggested removing members from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“I think we have the authority to remove members if we see fit,” Hill said.

Town Clerk Marilyn Dilmore pointed out the Planning and Zoning Commission members’ terms of service are nearly completed.

Hill and Town Council member Zack Howse described the Planning and Zoning Commission as an advisory board.

“From the state statute, it certainly seems they are a recommending body,” Howse said.

Some Town Council members raised the possibility of abolishing the Planning and Zoning Commission entirely.

“How can we not get rid of it if we established it in the first place?” Hill said.

Members of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission include Larry James, Neal Johnson, Glen McAdams, Bill York and Jim York.

Mayor Caesar Velasquez, who previously opposed granting Wilson a variance, remained silent through most of the Town Council’s discussions on Tuesday.

Hill asked what powers the Town Council held to exercise over the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“I was hoping our legal counsel would be here,” said Hill, referring to Monroe attorney Devin Jones.

Howse reiterated his previous argument that the town’s building ordinances do not expressly outline the process for obtaining a variance for metal siding.

“The problem I have is clarity,” Howse said. “There’s no process showing how an exception is granted.”

Voicing agreement with Howse, Hill said the town’s ordinances should accommodate new businesses.

“I think our position has always been to be as friendly to business as possible, and especially to those who want to promote growth in the town,” Hill said.

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