Board upholds land ownership requirement for commission

The Baldwin Township Board of Supervisors has decided not to amend the Baldwin Planning Commission membership requirements in such a way that a person would not have to be a Baldwin landowner to be on the commission.

Elly Rittenour, a member of the planning commission that began operating this summer, had asked the Board of Supervisors to remove the landowner requirement.

Rittenour gave the request to the board during the public comments part of the Aug. 21 meeting.

Rittenour explained that one of her reasons for wanting the landowner requirement dropped, is that there are residents who do not own land who should be able to qualify for appointment to the commission. The rule “limits participation in their township government,” she said. “What about people who rent, or grown children living in their parents’ home or elderly living with their children?”

Rittenour maintains that the land-ownership requirement “will diminish and stifle the number of Baldwin residents, such as voters, to apply for the commission.” Removing that requirement, she continued, “would implement a freer discussion among commission members, bringing in more experience and more perceptions with planning our township’s future.”

Jay Swanson, chair of the Baldwin Board of Supervisors, commented on Monday this week on why the board decided not to take any action on her request, thus allowing the landowner requirement to stand.

“I fully believe a landowner has a more vested interest in the township,” Swanson said. A person who is renting could end up leaving the township whenever they “fall on hard times,” he continued.

Swanson also noted that the planning commission’s landowner requirement came out of a citizen group that was part of the township’s Healthy Community Partnership initiative through an Initiative Foundation grant.

Swanson said he agreed with a statement he attributed to Rittenour that “change is hard.” Maybe in 10 years from now the Baldwin Board could change the landowner requirement, he said.