The Solvang City Council on Monday unanimously decided to table discussions about a potential merger between the planning commission and board of architectural review until a new city manager is hired.

Several councilors and public speakers also expressed a desire to update the city’s design guidelines and sign ordinance first.

Councilor Karen Waite was not in favor of combining the two bodies. She said she’s been on the Board of Architectural Review and found it to be an efficient board that often left things up to the discretion of staff.

“I’m lost as to why we even came up with the idea to combine the two?” Waite said.

Councilor Robert Clarke, who was in favor of merging the groups, said, “I’ve talked to a lot of builders that think it’s a good idea and I’m just bringing it up. I’m bringing it up for discussion.”

Councilor Chris Djernaes was also in favor of combining.

“I haven’t heard anything here that says the cost would be outrageous,” he said.

Waite said she felt there had been a collaboration to try to combine the two boards.

“To me it just seemed to come out of the blue,” Waite said.

Djernaes said he campaigned on the issue and Clarke said it’s something he’s heard for a long time.

Waite recommended tabling the issue.

“We obviously need to update the general plan, need to update sign ordinances,” Waite said. “I definitely think this is something that a new city manager should have input in.”

Mayor Ryan Toussaint said one of the main goals was to update policies.

“One of the priorities I have is pursuing the update of our sign ordinance and design guidelines,” Toussaint said. ”But also with that there’s a lot of opportunity for a lot of these items to be handled administratively over the counter.”

Councilor Daniel Johnson agreed that the new city manager should be involved in the decision.

“I think there’s other issues, I think there’s other major issues we need to discuss before we go forward with something like this,” Johnson said.

During public comment, resident Ed Skytt said if the boards were combined, instead of streamlining the process there would be different problems like longer meetings.

Skytt said there needed to be a more consistent application of the rules and suggested that the city hire a full-time sign enforcement officer.

Planning Commissioner Gay Infanti said there was no public opposition to keeping the boards separate.

She said the design guidelines need to be updated first before looking at the processes.

“We believe that combining the two at this stage in the game is going to cost everybody more money,” Infanti said.

Architect Brian Nelson described the two entities as aesthetics versus planning.

“The Planning commission is following the rules set by the ordinances,” Nelson said.

“And the aesthetics are just that.”

Clarke made a motion to table the issue until a new city manager is hired.

Waite seconded. The motion passed unanimously.


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