Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Keller City Commission ousts Planning and Zoning member

By ADRIENNE NETTLES - Star-Telegram Staff Writer - Wed, Jun. 06, 2007
KELLER -- A biting comment about the quality of a proposed subdivision has cost a Planning and Zoning Commission member her seat.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to remove Frances Marek because of comments she made in January that other commission members viewed as inappropriate.

Marek got out of her seat after the vote to protest the council's decision, telling the members that what they had done was illegal.

"You're supposed to take this before the [city] ethics commission," she said. "It's amazing you can all just sit there and do this."

But Mayor Pat McGrail said during a break in the meeting that the council did nothing illegally.

"The city ordinance calls for the fact that the council has the right to remove with or without cause," McGrail said. "These are the kind of comments we in the city of Keller cannot condone or support."

During a Jan. 8 public hearing, Marek, 75, questioned the quality of the proposed patio homes that a developer had planned for a 14-acre project near her home after she visited a local development that she was told was similar.

Speaking as a private citizen, she told the commission that the proposed Heritage Heights looked like a tossup between slum tenement housing in New York or "the government slum houses that they gave to African-Americans."

"It's not good," she said after the statement. "It's not good. It doesn't look good."

The developer, Johnson Diversified Enterprises, was requesting that the site on the east side of Old Town Keller, the city's downtown district, be rezoned from single-family residential to planned development.

Marek's Park Addition home on College Street is east of the proposed site.

The council and the commission eventually denied approval for Heritage Heights, city officials said.

After the council appointed Marek to the commission May 1, all six of her commission colleagues wrote McGrail with concerns. The members asked that Marek's appointment be revisited.

"We are committed to the integrity of this board and its public hearings," the members wrote. "Our newest commissioner has previously made statements in public forum on matters before this commission. In light of those statements, we are seriously concerned about her ability to serve on the Planning & Zoning Commission in a fair and unbiased manner."

Marek said in interviews that her comments weren't racist but were in reference to the segregated public housing built decades ago.

"I didn't make up anything that wasn't true," Marek said.

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By city ordinance, Planning and Zoning Commission members are appointed with a majority vote of the City Council and serve two years. Members can be removed with a three-fourths majority vote of the council, with or without cause.

Jan. 8: Keller resident Frances Marek speaks out against the patio home development Heritage Heights, comparing it to slum tenement houses in New York or "the government slum houses that they gave to African-Americans."

May 1: The City Council appoints Marek to Place 2 on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Marek takes her oath of office.

May 12: Voters elect Pat McGrail as mayor and Ray Brown as Place 1 councilman.

May 14: Six members of the Planning and Zoning Commission write McGrail asking that Marek's appointment be revisited.

June 5: The City Council considers a resolution to remove Marek from the commission and approves it unanimously.

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