Buellton City Council set itself up to fill two vacancies on the Planning Commission on Thursday night after selecting one member to fill a council vacancy and hearing another member will be leaving next month.
The council picked Art Mercado, the current commission chairman, to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Councilman John Connolly.
During the nomination process, Vice Mayor Ed Andrisek pointed out the Planning Commission will have two vacancies to be filled, as Commissioner Morgen McLaughlin will be moving out of the area.
McLaughlin, who has served as executive director of Santa Barbara Vintners for about four years, is leaving that post to become the executive director of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association in Oregon, according to a notice sent to member wineries by board President Matt Murphy.
During McLaughlin’s tenure as executive director, the local organization shortened its name from the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association to Santa Barbara Vintners.
She also worked, with limited success, to develop a cohesive countywide wine marketing campaign and tried to improve relationships between wineries and their residential neighbors as well as government officials and agencies.
McLaughlin’s term on the Planning Commission is scheduled to expire in 2020, while Mercado’s term will expire in 2018, and whoever is selected to replace them will be asked to serve out those terms.
City Clerk Linda Reid said applications would be available on the city’s website at www.cityofbuellton.com, and the city will accept completed applications until the middle of July.
The City Council would then likely appoint the two new commissioners from that pool of applicants at the July 27 council meeting.
“That would tie in with the projects we have coming in,” City Manager Marc Bierdzinski said.
It would put the two new members on the dais just in time to review one of the most controversial proposals the city has faced — the Avenue of Flags Specific Plan, which will return in a revised form for the commission to review again.
“If we do appoint on the 27th, I will have a full commission in August when the Avenue (of Flags) Specific Plan comes forward, so we won’t miss a beat as far as getting the other two up to speed, whoever is appointed,” City Manager Marc Bierdzinski said.
Commissioners could recommend the City Council adopt the revised plan as is, recommend the council make changes or send the plan back for additional changes and clarification, as has already happened.
Although the city will be taking applications from Buellton citizens for the two commission seats, council members urged Shannon Sadecki and Efren Pulido, who applied for the council vacancy but weren’t selected, to seriously consider applying for the commission.