Assisted living center opponent could be kicked off board

Bill Pitts won’t be there tonight when the Grand Junction City Council is expected to vote on whether he should be kicked off the city Planning Commission.

He’s in San Diego for a week-long national real estate meeting and sounded Tuesday like he is at ease with whatever decision council members reach.

“I can’t do anything about it,” he said. “They appointed me. If they don’t want me, they can fire me.”

City leaders have called Pitts’ service on the commission into question because he recently publicly opposed a proposed development near his home.

Pitts, who has served as a planning commissioner since 2002, wrote a letter to city planning staff in July opposing an application to change the zoning of 1.9 acres of land at 815 26 1/2 Road to allow the property owner to build an assisted-living facility there. He and his wife live near the property.

Pitts said Tuesday he opposed the zoning change because “it was a commercial operation in a residential area.”

Pitts recused himself from considering the zoning change as a member of the Planning Commission and did not attend the meeting when the City Council considered the issue. The council approved the zoning change.

A resolution adopted by the City Council in 2006 indicates that members of the Planning Commission may not attempt to influence any decision-maker if a conflict of interest or appearance of a conflict of interest exists.

Pitts, though, said he believes he still has a right to voice his opinion and considers it a First Amendment issue.

“Speaking quite candidly, they just don’t want a commissioner that they’ve appointed speaking out against anything that the city wants to do,” he said. “If they have public meetings, and you can’t have any input, why in God’s name do you have any public meetings?”

City officials have released few details about the reasons why Pitts’ service on the Planning Commission is in question. A staff report for tonight’s meeting says his recent actions as a member of the Planning Commission “have raised concern that Bill Pitts may be malfeasant and/or negligent in the performance of his duties.”

City Attorney John Shaver could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Asked what he’ll do if he is removed from the board, Pitts laughed and responded, “I’ll miss my $50 a month,” referring to the amount paid to planning commissioners.

“I’ll be disappointed,” he said, becoming serious, “because I volunteer for the commission because I’ve lived here for 42 years, and I’m interested in anything that goes on in the city.”


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