By Pauline Masson

Pacific Missourian Editor

Plans to rewrite portions of the city’s building and zoning codes have been put on hold following the announcement that Building Commissioner Shawn Seymour is leaving the city.

Seymour, who joined Pacific five months ago, announced his resignation last week. He had previously drafted four proposed ordinances to amend city codes, which were on the agenda at the Nov. 6 board meeting.

Alderman Herb Adams said, in view of Seymour’s planned departure, action on the proposed changes should be postponed until a new building commissioner is in place.

From the outset, Seymour had said Pacific zoning and building code ordinances are very poor. He said the codes are onerous to applicants and not found in similar communities.

“In my professional planning expertise, I believe it is critical to move forward and bring the codes in agreement with surrounding communities,” he said. “It is needed to attract development.”

Adams said he and other aldermen were willing to adopt the changes when it appeared that Seymour would be the individual using them to review development, but as the city brings another person in to the position, that person might want to have input.

“The next person we hire will have their own experience that might be different from Shawn’s. It is likely that it will be,” he said. “It would be good for the board to slow down. If something is a good idea today, it will be a good idea tomorrow.”

Adams said the right course of action would be for the mayor to fill the position and present the proposed changes to the new employee.

Myers said Seymour had brought a high level of expertise to the city.

“He is the caliber of individual that we need to look for,” Myers said. “It might take time. I don’t like to delay, but understand your point.”

Adams said his intent is to wait until the city employs the next person. He said using the existing codes, the city had witnessed the development of Save-a-Lot, B&H, CVS, Pilot Truck Center and several factories.

“Pacific is a large employer of factories,” he said. “If we have new development they will face the same set of rules they (existing businesses) had to go through.”

Adams said the notion that Pacific has a set of rules that hinders business is not true.

“Do we need to look at how to do business? Yes,” he said. “There is good reason that with Shawn leaving to let the new person have input.

“Shawn doesn’t like the PUD. Ten years ago we had a law firm that said our regulations were archaic and the PUD was one way to go. We were convinced,” Adams added. “Now Shawn brings us his experience and he says the way we do business is archaic. When we hire someone to replace Shawn it will be the same thing again. We need to slow down and see what that input might be.”

Drew Stotler said when the proposed changes were brought to the operations committee, it seemed like the committee was OK with them.

“I didn’t see any major issues unless someone is not speaking up,” Stotler said. “The committee agreed.”

Adams said he spoke with Seymour the morning of the meeting and learned that the changes before aldermen were just part of the changes that Seymour had planned to bring. He said the next person to fill the building commissioner position also will have changes.

“It’s not that I want to kill the changes, but we need to employ the person first, and let him have input,” Adams said.

City Administrator Steve Roth said he had filled the role of zoning officer before hiring Seymour and he also recognized that the zoning codes needed updates. He said the codes were difficult to manage.

Roth had budgeted $30,000 for a consultant to help make the changes, but after hiring Seymour, who is a certified planner, there was no need to hire a consultant. He said the proposed changes had produced numerous discussions between himself and Seymour.

“I didn’t always agree with him, but I gave him latitude,” said Roth, adding he does not object to a new person having review and feedback on the proposed ordinances, but he would object if the new person wanted to make significant changes.

Roth asked City Attorney Bob Jones if significant changes were made, would the ordinances have to go back to the planning and zoning commission (P&Z).

Jones said, yes, P&Z is part of the process. If changes are significant, the ordinances would have to go back to P&Z for public hearings.

Alderman Carol Johnson said she was comfortable with the changes when Seymour first presented them because he was comfortable with them.

“He took the lead in these changes, but now the lead is leaving,” she said. “He is not going to be here to carry forth what he is suggesting.”

Alderman Andy Nemeth said while it’s not clear that some developers didn’t come to the city because of the building codes, he worries that some developers are looking at the city now.

“Nobody knows if having these amendments or not having them made a difference in who comes to the city,” Nemeth said. “But it is scary if we are not cleaning things up.”

Saying he wanted to see the amendments tabled until the building commissioner position was filled, Adams’ motion to table the bills was passed by voice vote.