Rob Holt, a Hillsboro native, has been appointed the newest member of the Hillsboro Planning Commission, following an amendment included in the recently-approved state budget bill allowing cities like Hillsboro to look beyond their corporation limits for members to sit on municipal planning commissions.
Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings said he hopes Holt will bring fresh perspective and youthful energy to the commission.
“I’m just really glad,” Hastings said. “He’s a little younger, so we’re getting a more fresh face on the commission, and I’m really impressed with his whole business background and his eye toward planning and economic development. He was very interested in serving, so we’re honored to have him.”
Holt said he’s been involved in the Rocky Fork Lake Area Safety and Advancement Project, and has been working with the city on developing new zoning codes.
“All these things are kind of connected in some way or other, so it just seemed like a good fit,” he said.
Holt, who lives outside the city on Pigeon Roost Road, said he currently works for Bagshaw Enterprises overseeing the company’s maintenance department and new unit development.
“I’m a jack of all trades,” Holt said. “It’s a family business, so I’m coming up through. I’ve worked and run restaurants before coming into maintenance and the development piece of it, so now I’m helping out in this way… I’m still doing fried chicken sometimes.”
Holt said he had expressed interest in joining the commission during a meeting with Hastings several months ago.
“Drew and I kind of had a conversation about what the younger generation could do for the city, and I said I’m interested,” Holt said. “The planning commission just seemed like a natural fit.”
Holt said he won’t be a voting member until September, but until then will have input on the board.
Holt said he hopes to bring about positive changes to the community through his role with the commission.
“You know, I see a lot of potential for Hillsboro and the surrounding areas,” he said. “It’s not just the city of Hillsboro. We’re such a unique place with great people, and not to say it’s underutilized, but I just saw an opportunity to help. I may not know exactly all the answers, but as long as you’re doing something and moving forward, I believe that’s how progress is made… and I feel like I have the time and energy to see it through.”
Last September, Hastings proposed in a letter to State Sen. Bob Peterson (R-17th Dist.) to widen the scope of population from which to choose commission members, since at the time only people who lived within city limits were permitted to serve on municipal planning commissions.
Hastings wrote that his administration “has transformed the Hillsboro Planning Commission from a reactive group approving variances and driveway cuts to a proactive group who sees the need for updated zoning code, a citywide pathway program, and a strict adherence to city code. And, most importantly, long term planning.”
The mayor wrote that “changing demographics over the years has made finding viable candidates more difficult.” He added, “Increasing the membership pool will allow the city of Hillsboro to obtain the dynamic, motivated members it needs to continue the momentum created in the past four years.”
Peterson recently credited Hastings with starting the ball rolling on the change to state law.
“It was very much his idea,” said Peterson. He called it a “perfect example” of a proposal starting at the grassroots level and making its way into law.
Peterson said that after he heard from Hastings, he researched the proposal, consulting with organizations like the Ohio Municipal League and the Ohio Township Association, with most officials agreeing the suggestion had merit. He said Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger also got on board.
Hastings said Thursday that he learned the change was being enacted while attending a recent mayor’s conference in Columbus. The amendment states that two “citizen members” of planning commissions must still be city residents, but now allows one “public member” to live outside the corporation limit.
In fact, the amendment, as approved, does not place any restriction on where the outside public member resides, simply stating, “…public members need not be residents of the municipal corporation…”
State law prescribes five-member planning commissions, while Hillsboro city code provides for an additional two members, meaning the Hillsboro Planning Commission is made up of seven members.
Previously, the commission consisted of the mayor, the safety and service director, and five citizens residing in the city limits. The change in law revises the number of residents required to live within the city to two – four in Hillsboro’s case, considering the extra two members under the city’s ordinance — giving the mayor the freedom to select one member from outside the corporation limit.
Hastings said that while he would have preferred that the non-resident rule be applied to more than one member — and hopes that someday the same concept will be expanded to other boards and commissions — the change is a step in the right direction. He said he appreciated Peterson’s responsiveness to his suggestion.
In addition to Hastings, Holt and safety and service director Mel McKenzie, current commission members are Tom Eichinger, Ruth Robbins, Joe Mahan and Charlie Guarino.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.