Marathon Council reprimands Planning Commissioner over advertisement

Marathon Council reprimands Planning Commissioner over advertisement

Marathon Mayor Mark Senmartin called on Councilwoman Michelle Coldiron to remove Planning Commissioner Lott Pansky on Tuesday. Pansky paid for a full-page advertisement published in the Marathon Weekly on April 8 in support of Coldiron’s plan to pass a resolution that would not allow for any “new” hotel development until current projects are completed.

The community was sharply divided over the resolution to suspend the issuance of 100 Transient Rental Units (TRUs) — the right to build hotel rooms — the City of Marathon has banked since 2011. For some, it was perceived as a “tactical pause” to slow traffic congestion, address affordable housing and allow the City of Marathon to address infrastructure needs. For others, it was an unwelcome attempt to meddle with the free market and cause an artificial increase in the value of existing building rights.

Semartin criticized Pansky’s position as “self-serving” and in conflict with his role as an appointed member of the Planning Commission and as a member of the city’s expanded Affordable Housing Committee. Panksy owns a motel on the east end of Marathon and also owns parcels in Keys RV park property, each with attendant building rights.

“There is no room for this on our board. His opinion is geared towards his best interests and has nothing to do with the actual resolution to protect our city. I ask that [Coldiron] remove him as her appointment on the planning commission and replace [Pansky] with someone else,” Senmartin said in a prepared statement.

Pansky defended his right to his opinion.

“Yes, I do have transient rights for sale,” he said, referring to permits to build hotel rooms commonly traded between developers for about $65,000 each. Pansky told the council he has nine TRUs for sale with local broker Ginger Henderson, of which he owns half. “Removing me from the Planning Commission has never been done before. When the time comes, I am going to open my mouth. I am not afraid. I think it’s more self interest on your side,” Pansky told Senmartin.

The council was unanimous, including Coldiron, in issuing Pansky an official warning.

“[Pansky] has a right to free speech,” Coldiron said, referring to the paid advertisement in the form of an open letter to the community. “But I would agree with Councilman Bill Kelly that it’s not appropriate to put the title of the organizations that you belong to, just your name.”

Coldiron also noted it is Pansky’s second term on the Planning Commission and that he was originally appointed by another council.

“There are strong emotions on this issue and personal differences of opinion,” said Councilman Dan Zieg. “Let’s let things calm down and not pursue removal at this time.”

Coldiron’s resolution regarding the halt of new hotel development failed to pass.

“I’m disappointed that I didn’t get my message across that this wasn’t forever. I just wanted to have an open discussion to see how the city handles new development coming on board,” she said.

In other news:

• The City of Marathon passed an anti-littering law that would result in a fine if citizens are caught throwing out cigarette or cigar butts on public property.

• The City of Marathon also passed a law making it possible for law enforcement to issue a civil citation, rather than arrest, a member of the public in possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. Possessing marijuana is still illegal, however officers have discretion on a case-by-case basis whether to take the defendant to jail or write a ticket.

• The City of Marathon agreed to place a non-binding referendum question on the August ballot for city voters regarding a pool. Voters will be asked whether they support the construction and maintenance of a community “funded by taxes, assessments, user fees, or any other permissible source of public funds?”

• The council directed staff to research whether annual vacation rental license fees can be increased by $500. The extra money — about $250,000 — would be diverted to pay for affordable housing needs.

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