Kent council to examine Architecture board's role

By Thomas Gallick | Staff Writer Published:

Kent City Council will consider taking away the Kent Architectural Review Board's ability to make legally binding decision because of potential issues involving conflicts of interest.

Council is scheduled to discuss whether to relegate the architecture board to a strictly advisory role at tonight's council committees meeting. The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the council chambers.

Kent Law Director Jim Silver said he was approached by board members to clarify what would be considered a conflict of interest.

After researching the Ohio Revised Code for guidance on the issue, Silver said, "It's fairly clear -- if you are a public officer, member of Council, or employee of the city, you cannot be an agent for an entity or person appearing before any City Board, Commission or Council."

Silver said he has recommended board members to resign from the board or stop representing clients who come before the board when potential conflicts arose in the past.

City Manager Dave Ruller has recommended Council return the board to advisory status after conferring with Silver and the rest of the city's administration.

"The most logical resolution to this legal dilemma is to return the (board) to an advisory role for the Planning Commission as it has been for many years," he said.

Council expanded the role and powers of the city's Architectural Review Board in February 2012, in part to allow the board to vote on whether to name the old Kent Hotel a "local historic property."

After the board's role was expanded, property owners in downtown Kent could be fined for remodeling a property without notifying the board or disobeying the board's rulings.

The issue of conflicts of interests came up most recently at a meeting when developer Ron Burbick asked the board to approve his sign plan for the old hotel, known as Acorn Corner, at the March 5 meeting. Board member Doug Fuller, who worked extensively with Burbick on the restoration of the hotel, did not attend the meeting or vote on the issue.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1126 or tgallick@recordpub.com

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